Business owner or employee, there is time in everyone’s life when you must mingle. For some, walking into a crowd of people – friends or strangers – is as easy as walking into an empty room. For others, that crowd might as well be a fire-breathing dragon.
Crowds, however, are a necessity that we all must face. For those who are shy, introverted, or reserved, here are some simple tips for successfully getting through that group event: be it birthday bash or networking mixer.
1. Arrive Early
(Actually, arrive on time before groups of people manage to form. Unless you are on the set up crew, arriving early is quite rude.)
When networking, the early-bird gets to make the group. By arriving earlier than the masses, the group will naturally form around you.
2. Don’t Be Afraid to Stand Alone
For the other shy members of the group, approaching someone alone is much easier than approaching a group. When you find yourself alone, look for the other “wall flowers” and approach them – they’re likely to appreciate it.
3.Introduce Yourself to the Host
There are several good reasons to know the host. First, there is at least one friendly face in the room. Second, if you’re feeling at a loss for what to do, you can offer to help. Third, the host can introduce you to people you want to meet – provided you ask for the introduction. Our very own Leslie Reitzes, Community Manager at Laptop Lounge Workspace in Walnut Creek happens to be great at this, don’t be afraid to ask for her help!
…Like Laptop Lounge or another business networking group. When you are a part of a group that you see often, the strangers become familiar faces, who then become people you say hello to and talk with at the coffee maker, who then become familiar colleagues and friends.
The thing to remember is that networking is really about building relationships – and that’s what community is about as well. Coworking and shared workspaces are great places for this!
5. Smile & Ask Questions
If all else fails, remember that everyone’s favorite topic is themselves. By asking open-ended questions like, “how did you get into…?” you allow the other person to do all the work. Other good questions include:
• What is your favorite customer type?
• What is your favorite type of project?
• What do you do for fun?
NOTE: This tip requires that you pay attention so that you can follow up appropriately!
Networking, and group events in general, does not have to be your favorite thing; however, it does not have to be something you dread either. The real success tip for anyone is to keep an open mind. If you go into a room determined to have a bad time, be bored, or have no one talk to you, then that is exactly what will happen. The possibility of fun will not exist if you do not allow for it. The probability of meeting exactly the person you want to know plummets if you close yourself off from the introduction.
What are some of your favorite tips for overcoming the fear of networking? We’d love to hear them!