Throughout life, and indeed business as part of that, certain success comes through communicating with others and involving them in your ideas and plans or projects. This is networking, though you might not think of it as such.
Networking is not always a natural and easy activity but is a skill that must be learned and appreciated.
You are already part of several networks – your family, friends, school, sports team, colleagues and community. So, whether you are networking formally at business events or informally with people you already know – you are connecting with others. Connecting and building relationships is Networking at its finest.
Wherever you network there are always people who seem very confident, loud and friendly, and who are everywhere, talking and laughing with everyone effortlessly. If you are a shy person, just thinking about being out there like that can make you breathless, worried and wanting to leave - before you have even said ‘Hello’.
Read on to get some ideas to help you feel better and network confidently.
1. Know why you are going
Before attending a networking event, think about why you are going and what you hope to get out of it – your intention. If you know this before you go, and how you plan to act on it, you will be more confident about it when you are there, and have less chance of being disappointed.
Intentions can be big or small. For example, intention you could set could be…
- I am going to have fun tonight,
- I am going to meet 3 new people at this event, and
- I am going reach follow up on those people on social media and an email afterward
Setting your intention before you go reminds you the whole time why you are there and compels you to take action to make sure you get it.
2. Know about your Event
You may be naturally shy, however, being stupid or putting your foot in it, is a choice you make!
If you are a bit overwhelmed about attending a networking event, help yourself before you go. Not by having a fortifying drink but by doing a bit of research - about the host, the type of people expected there, the reason for it and anything special about the event. This way you will you be forewarned and avoid embarrassment or saying something inappropriate.
The same applies in a social setting; knowing who the host is, the type of people who will be there and their relationships to the host and each other, will make you feel more at ease from the outset.
If you are more relaxed about the event in general, it will help you remember key names and assist you in conversations.
3. Be a Listener
If you think successful networking is all about flitting from person to person at an event, happily talking to everyone, you might be intimidated by those who seem to be good at it. And if everyone is busy talking, no one is listening – and that is where a shy person can have the advantage.
If that’s you, and you listen instead of talking all the time, you’ll hear opportunities when they come up, will understand what other people need and be in a position to act. For every person that is talking, there is at least one person listening. And that could be you.
Remember, being shy can be an advantage!
4. It’s your time to Speak Up
If you hear an opportunity or idea discussed that fits into your own area of knowledge or business, that’s when it’s your time to speak up. It might be a question, statement of fact or opinion but you MUST speak.
Being shy does not give you permission not to speak at all; it gives you permission to wait for the right moment and then be heard and to impress.
When you DO speak, make sure people can hear you clearly and that what you say is easy to understand. Being cryptic, or assuming others understand jargon can appear arrogant and conceited - and doesn’t build rapport, it separates you.
When networking, you want to make a connection with others, and encourage them to ask questions without feeling silly. Make it easy for both you and for them.
Part 2 of this article will give you ideas on when to use these skills in a networking environment and how to direct conversations to make YOU feel more confident. .