How to get over your fear of networking
We've all been there - even the most experienced networkers of us. You're finally in a room with the people you need to be connecting with and suddenly you're overwhelmed by the prospect of walking up to them and trying to convince them to pay even an inkling of attention to you.
And that's completely normal, it's scary stuff.
But you know what? We've all been there. The person you're walking towards has been there, and it's important to step back and remember this.
To help tackle the fear of networking we're going to build a basic strategy for assessing and navigating the situation so you can start working the room like a pro.
First things first - do your prep work
You wouldn't walk into a presentation without anything prepared, so don't walk into a room without having your key points and people down pat.
Pick your networking events
This is the time to be selective. While networking opportunities will crop up in your everyday life you can be guaranteed that events will be one of your most useful networking sources for hitting the ground running. You don't need to attend all of them though so pick an event with a theme you'll get value out of - whether that's innovation in the legal tech sector or being mindful in your working life. This is a key element to getting in the room with the right people.
Set some goals
Are you launching a legal doc services app for small business owners and need a co-founder? Or are you interested in moving into the construction industry and looking for some advice and connections? Having a goal you're working towards will allow you to be selective about who you talk to and provide you with a good base of questions and talking points with people.
Talk the talk
On that note, what are some key projects for you right now? Have a think about what you might say when the conversation eventually winds its way to this question. Knowing some key points in advance will make the conversation easier to navigate if you find yourself with a bout of nerves.
There's no need to ride solo at networking events. Having a friend allows you to generate group conversation with others and will help balance out your nerves. We love this tip and use it ourselves often. Just make sure you don't end up relying too much on each other; branch out and mingle!
WORK THE ROOM
Alright- you've picked your event, set some goals and rallied a friend into attending with you. Now the real work begins.
Don't be afraid to say hi
This one may seem obvious but it's important to remember a lot of the people in the room are probably feeling similar nerves about walking up to a stranger. So jump in, say hi to someone and ask them about themselves.
The best networkers all have one common characteristic, they're great listeners. This is a critical step in networking. If you can get the other person talking about themselves and respond with contextualised answers that show you care then you're already nine tenths of the way to making that person feel valued and important (which reflects on you in a great way).
Find common ground
Breaking through into common ground is where the gold nugget of connection lies. While you're listening intently to what the other person has to say, try and find something you have in common and bring it back around to that topic. It can be on anything, inside or outside work. The best connections are emotional so whatever that common ground is, nurture it and build your connection up from there.
Know when to move on
Sticking around for too long can be a conversation killer. If you can feel the conversation waning don't be afraid to thank the person for the chat and excuse yourself politely.
Don't forget to exchange details with people you'd like to keep in contact with!
It's over now yeah?
Almost! The final step in this strategy is to follow up with your new contacts. Where relevant, connect on LinkedIn or shoot them an email about meeting up in the future. This won't apply to everyone but it's important to continue nurturing these connections as you never know where you'll find them handy!
At the end of all this you'll find yourself proud of what you've achieved and well equiped to get out and do it again. Everything takes practice- especially such a socially forward activity such as professional networking. But before you know it you'll be exchanging cards with people in line at the coffee shop and chatting about future collaborations!
Want to network with us? Come along to one of our Thrive workshops!