Networking is a fundamental part of building a career, but it can be a daunting prospect introducing yourself to strangers.
Yet the challenge is worth overcoming; successful working relationships can help you move companies, grow new skills or even bring in new business. To help you on your way, we’ve got 5 top tips to avoid the sweaty-palms and nervous chatter of awkward networking events.
- Do your research
If you’re going to an event, research it. Try to find out who will be there, so you’re aware of who you might like to approach and who might interest you. You may also find that there are people there who you’ve met before, which will help to ease you into conversations.
- Arrive on time
You don’t want to arrive too early – being one of only a few people standing in a large space is always uncomfortable. But equally, you don’t want to arrive too late or you will feel the pressure of having to walk into a crowded room, whilst figuring out where to place yourself and who to talk to.
- Balance the conversation
If the thought of talking a lot makes you feel nervous then find ways to balance your conversations; ask open-ended questions that encourage the other person to talk, so that awkward silences are kept to a minimum. If you’re feeling a little unconfident then playing the listener will give you time to step back, relax and consider what you want to say next. It also leaves a good impression.
- Take a break
At a busy and potentially long networking event it is perfectly acceptable to take a break. Even the most experienced and confident networkers will want some time to escape the room. Don’t wear yourself out, else you might find yourself not paying attention to people. Find some space outside for fresh air, get a drink and use the time to reflect on how things are going, so that when you re-enter, you feel ready.
- Don’t be too serious
Networking is your chance to sell yourself and expand your horizons, but that doesn’t mean it needs to be dull. Share some anecdotes or appropriate jokes, and have a laugh with other people in the room – everyone knows it’s a little bit awkward.
Want to learn more networking? Join Business Fundamentals: Effective Networking. Or if you’re looking to develop your communications more generally, have a look at our Communication skills courses and programs page.