If there are people out there who say they love to walk into a room filled with strangers who they need to meet and impress in minutes, I don’t believe them. However, I agree that for some, it can be uber-daunting. If you feel especially ill at ease, you don’t need to force yourself to channel Robin Williams, you need to take some deep breaths and remember the following:
- Prep before you arrive. Come up with some conversation starters. Something as simple as “Hello, I’m Heidi. What brought you to this event?” Don’t forget that the starter doesn’t always have to be business-related, or even a question. If you start with “Hello, I’m Heidi. I saw your dress from across the room and just had to ask you where you got it because it’s fantastic on you,” you not only break the ice but also make someone feel good which will make them feel good about you in return.
- If possible, find out ahead of time who might be at the event that you want to meet and then prep questions specifically for them. Questions or comments that are specific to the person really emphasize your interest in them. For example, “I was hoping to meet you. I’m so interested in how you first came up with the idea for self-parking cars.” Flattery in the form of interest and admiration for what someone does goes a long way.
- Once you arrive, make a bee-line for someone who is alone (or else a small group that doesn’t look as though they’re in the middle of an intense conversation). Introduce yourself, use one of your prepared questions and then sit back and listen.
- Remember – people love to talk about themselves and, consequently, love a good listener. Be that good listener. You don’t have to worry about being interesting, just be interested.
- If you hit a conversation lull, suggest that the two (or however many) of you go introduce yourselves to “that person over there who looks shy” – not only is the pressure now taken off yourself but it’s taken off your own shyness and makes you look compassionate and confident.
Set a realistic goal for yourself concerning how many people you will network with at one event. You may feel tempted to talk with one friendly person all evening, or you may feel stressed that you have to “meet everyone!”
So set a goal, such as three people. Once you’ve achieved that goal, relax and call it a successful evening. You may find that you’re more relaxed now and end up meeting some more people, or else you can pat yourself on the back for your success and go home to watch “Game of Thrones.” Now there’s a stressful networking world.