People have problems with networking because initially, it’s really awkward and it takes getting out of your comfort zone when it’s time to connect with people you don’t know. You don’t know if they are going to be nice to you, you’re not sure if they are going to snub you, and let’s face it – we are essentially afraid of rejection.
But when it comes to blogging and being a professional in today’s society it is so important to network and make connections with others in your field, My amazing friend, and networking maven, Vanessa Abron is taking over the blog today to share how she dazzles any room…
Growing up, I was really shy, and I was never a fan of approaching a random stranger or taking the initiative in starting a conversation. It’s hard to believe now, but it’s very true. However, the desire for extended life experiences forced me out of this. When I was a senior in high school, I was in a debutant cotillion, and we had to approach various businesses to sponsor us. Whoever raised the most in sponsorships would be crowned “Miss Prominent Pearl,” and I wanted the crown. My desire to achieve my goal outweighed my nervousness and I did win Miss Prominent Pearl. Later in life, I had to activate this same energy to make the connections needed to pursue my desired career. I’ve practiced networking so much that it’s now natural to me. Because I learned to network, I’ve met some wonderful people that led me some unforgettable experiences in both life and career.
Regardless if you are an introvert or an extrovert, you can successfully network. Here are some tips to help you along the way.
Think about the worse thing that can happen and mentally be okay with that possibility.
What is the worse thing that could happen when you try to network with someone? When asked this question, most say that they are afraid of approaching someone who is uninterested in speaking back to them. I am here to say that, yes, that is a possibility. However, there is a solution to this dilemma. Accept that that can happen and don’t care. Unfortunately, there are people out there that are uninterested in meeting new people, can’t see your value immediately, or just have an air about themselves where they feel that they are better than. These people are irrelevant to your growth and development, so please, be okay taking the blow and move on. It is not personal and has no bearing on the value you bring. If you take it personally, it could prevent you from meeting someone AMAZING. Don’t let haters block your blessings. It is their loss for missing out on the opportunity to meet someone as awesome as you. They will regret it later in life.
Own the fact that YOU are someone that people should meet.
Regardless if you are at the beginning stages of your career, a mid-level professional, or an industry veteran, you are someone worth meeting. You are a super cool person and other people want to meet you just as much as you want to meet them. Know and own your value, without being arrogant. Once you do this, it’s easier to have the assurance to approach other people, and you will exude the confidence that will attract others to you naturally.
Let down your guard and know that it’s okay to walk up to someone you don’t know.
It’s hard to meet new people when you keep to yourself or only spend time with others you already know. When you are at a networking event, the stage is already set for you to walk up to random people and vice versa. It will not be weird if you approach someone and start talking. However, if this is awkward for you, have a few conversations starters ready to help you break the ice. Here are some examples for you to use (NOTE – please commit these to memory because reading questions from a piece or paper or your phone would be weird and appear unnatural):
- Hi there! My name is __________________. What is your name?
- Is it okay if I join you for a second?
- What brings you to this event today?
- Are you enjoying yourself thus far?
- What field of work are you in?
- Are you from this city?
- Have you met anyone interesting yet?
- I love your _______________ (shirt, shoes, bag, tie, lapel, etc.) Where did you get it? (Only make this comment only if you do like something they have).
If the event has speakers ask:
- What are your thoughts on the comments __________ made when he/she was speaking?
- Of all the panelists, who was your favorite?
Once you break the ice, make sure you respond and be conversational. Give your thoughts and opinions and open up about who you are. Listen intently, but also showcase who you are as well. These questions are only starters. You should allow a conversation to develop naturally once you get the ball rolling.
Give the energy you want to receive
If you don’t want someone to be mean and standoffish to you when you try to connect with them, then you have to make sure you are also not that person. If you want to receive a warm welcome and smile, greet others with a warm welcome and smile. Don’t blow off people you don’t know who approach. You have to be what you want to receive. You attract what you give off.
Be prepared to exchange business cards, v-cards, and/or connect on social media
Congratulations! You made a great connection with someone and now it’s time to exchange information. Be prepared for this moment. It would be a travesty to make a connection and be unprepared for the exchange of contact information. If you are feeling a vibe with someone, have the confidence to initiate the exchange of information before the two of you depart ways.
Practice makes perfect and know that networking can happen anywhere
You do not have to be at a networking event to network. Anytime you are in a place with other people is an opportunity for you to network – the gym, the grocery store, a party, a baseball game, etc. I suggest using basic normal settings to practice networking so it becomes natural to you over time. Practice really does makes perfect. The more you do it, the more you get better. Besides, if you mess up, you may never see these people again so you have nothing to lose. You never know though, the person in front of you in the check-out line may be your new best friend, a business connection, or new love. The more you let your guard down to approach and speak to people you don’t know, the easier it becomes and you expand your access to new opportunities in life in general.
Do you attend industry events or blogger events in your community? If you need any help with your brand or want to learn more about networking reach out to Vanessa @AgencyAbron on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and her website AgencyAbron.com!