Some of us are hardwired to feel more introverted, shy, and even awkward while chatting with strangers. If you’re not lucky enough to be a natural extrovert, here are a few of our favorite tips for giving your networking confidence a boost!
Be on Time, Not Early
You might have gotten in the habit of showing up early to show how dedicated and eager you are. But that can backfire if you arrive too early at a networking event. It’s harder to make small talk when there are only a few people waiting in an otherwise empty conference room. Wait until you have safety in numbers!
Read the Newspaper
If you’re primed with the latest local news stories, you’ll be assured of having something to talk about with the people you meet. Just make sure to avoid hot-button topics like politics.
Avoid the Liquid Courage
Although it’s tempting to grab a drink–especially if the event has an open bar–avoid alcohol if you’re feeling nervous. You might feel more sociable after a glass or two of wine, but in the long run it’s better to stay sober and focused.
Pack a Networking “Go Bag”
Being prepared can go a long way to boosting your networking confidence. Before an event, ensure that you have two pens, a generous stack of business cards, a notebook, and any other materials you might need.
Bring a Well-Connected Buddy
With the caveat that you can’t use this networking confidence tip to spend the whole night glued to your friend’s side, this can really help. Go to an event with a mentor or more experienced colleague who can introduce you to influential people.
It might sound cheesy, but the real secret to networking success is just to be yourself. You don’t need to memorize scripts or approach events as if they’re battlefields. Be authentic and open, and people will respond positively.
Good luck out there! You’re going to do fine.