Fear of networking and tips to get better at it
Free drinks, great food, lots of interesting people and a vibrant atmosphere. Sounds great, doesn’t it. What if I tell you that this is a networking event I’m talking about. Are you feeling hyped about it or uneasy, hoping to get ill on that day?
Various factors such as a horde of unfamiliar faces, pressure to succeed making useful contacts, desire to represent yourself or your company well, a need to impress others or yourself can leave us feeling stuck with a growing sense of terror mixed with disappointment. And all these mixed emotions happen whilst you are surrounded by seemingly happy, chatty, engaging faces, leaving you feeling alone with your fears. However, more people than you might think are dealing with similar thoughts and feelings when it comes to networking and you will see people at different stages of overcoming the fear. Some won’t even come to the event, some will chat only to those they know or stay busy on their phone, some will make clumsy attempts to connect and some will be like fish in the water.
Networking is a journey of growth, so accept yourself without judgement no matter at what stage you are and you will grow to enjoy such events, bringing value to yourself and others. That, I think, is a first step towards learning networking and anything else in life really - zero self judgement. Now let’s look at some other tips to help you become better at networking.
How do you see networking will greatly affect your ability to network. If networking is a chore to you, or you see it as a salesy act then surely such resistance within you will result in unease at a networking event.
Think of networking as a fantastic way to connect to people, bring-in new business or just share dreams and aspirations. Conversation doesn’t cost anything and done well can result in meaningful and at times profitable connections. Remember that businesses are run by humans after all.
Quiet your mind and just raise a question - what are you really afraid of? Common networking related fears are such: people will think I am a weirdo, they will be unwelcoming to an outsider, I will not have anything interesting to say, I will end up rejected.
These fears are mostly irrational and come from within you, from how you see yourself in relation to others. Such fears often come from childhood or from conditioning in society.
However, people that are truly worth connecting and interacting with, will not be vindictive or purposefully critical. Most of the time, people want others to be happy and succeed. Especially if you are new, people want to be helpful and will often be curious about you. So set these fears aside and allow your own curiosity about other people lead to having a great time.
Find out what sort of people will be attending the event, what their recent or most exciting projects and ventures are. Find them during the event and express your admiration on something they themselves are proud of. Be prepared to share details about some of your own projects or your opinion on mutual interests. If that seems too scary, practise with small talks. Remember, it doesn’t have to be perfect, just do it.
Mind your body language. Be open, have good posture and maintain a confident and friendly eye contact. Smile.
Listen. Truly listen what the person is saying instead of hectically thinking of what to reply with.
Golden advice for the end - check the types of circles. There are circles of people - open and closed ones to begin with. They mostly consist of twos, threes, fours and more. Aim to join an open three group. You will be able to see whether they're open or closed from their feet and torso. A closed group is when everyone's feet and torso are towards the centre of the circle, which shows that they are engrossed in their conversation and not looking for anyone else to join.
So there you are, I hope these tips will inspire you to say yes to networking events. Don’t overthink and try to have fun!