4 Event Networking Tips for the Shy
If you’re shy and find it difficult to approach a stranger, networking events can be a nightmare. All the smiling and selling yourself to prospective employers or even school alumni at such events may make you feel uncomfortable and completely out of your element.
What do you do?
Firstly, you need to acknowledge that meeting and getting to know strangers is a big part of ‘adulting’, and it’s something you can’t avoid. It’s vital to move out of your comfort zone and connect with others in the industry in order to progress in your career. If you ever feel like backing down from networking with strangers, remind yourself that this is for your own good!
To help you get your networking game on, we’ve gathered four quick tips for you.
1. Set a goal to meet at least three people
Setting a goal for yourself to meet a certain number of people will help you get on with it and achieve that goal. Have this number in mind, and when you are done with meeting one person, you can move on and talk to the next person.
Once you’ve reached your set number, you can go home with a sense of achievement. You can start with three people at first, and gradually increase the number with more practice.
That said, practice is key. To really improve your networking skills, attend as many networking events as possible. With practice, you will find it easier to break the ice and maybe even find yourself having a great time.
2. Start with the ones who are alone
Approaching a big group of strangers may be a big leap out of your comfort zone, so you may want to start by speaking to someone who is on their own.
If he or she is alone and not speaking to anyone, chances are they are waiting for someone to chat them up – or they are just as shy as you are! This is the perfect opportunity for you to introduce yourself.
When introducing yourself, make sure to briefly include the necessary information – your name, the course you are studying or the degree you graduated with, what your interests are or why you’re at the event. However, make sure to develop a topic of interest to keep the conversation going after your conversation partner introduces himself or herself.
If it is an industry-specific event (e.g. IT and tech networking event), you can talk about news and trends that you are interested in (e.g. game development, artificial intelligence, etc.).
Go for something you are genuinely interested in, so that your conversation partner will remember you distinctly as ‘the guy with in-depth knowledge on game development’, for instance. This will greatly help you promote your personal brand as well.
3. Two is better than one
Now that you’ve made a new acquaintance, ask the person to join forces with you and meet other people.
Having someone by your side whom you’re already acquainted with will help boost your confidence when speaking to a group of strangers. Who knows – maybe your new acquaintance would appreciate that you want to go around as a pair too!
Remember to introduce yourself and then your networking partner. Forgetting to do the latter will make you look rude.
4. Make a graceful exit, but don’t forget to follow up
Socialising can be a very exhausting activity for introverts and shy people. Once you’ve hit your goal of networking with x amount of people, you can excuse yourself tactfully and leave the venue.
However, every networking connection you make is hard-won (especially if you’re an introvert!), so don’t make your efforts go to waste by failing to following up.
Once you are home from the event, and while your connections’ memory of you is still fresh on their mind, drop them a message via email thanking them for their time and ask if you can connect with them on LinkedIn.
In order to do this, be sure to ask for your new acquaintances’ contact details or name cards.
“It was a great pleasure meeting you and I really enjoyed speaking to you. Do you mind sharing your contact details with me so we can keep in touch?” is a short and sweet way to end your conversation on a positive note and show your interest on staying connected.