For many professionals, attending networking events poses a huge problem. Even in this socially-connected world, most people think of networking as forced, unnatural and a general pain in the butt. It’s one thing to communicate behind a veil of technology via text, facebook and LinkedIn; it’s another to have a conversation up close and personal.
However, it doesn’t need to be difficult. And, in this world where change is constant—especially in our careers—it’s more important than ever to get comfortable with developing new contacts.
In fact, you can actually have fun networking. Here are 4 tips to get you started:
1. Bring a networking buddy. Note: I didn’t say drinking buddy. You want someone who presents well professionally, as they represent an extension of your brand. Many people feel a lot more comfortable entering a room full of strangers if they have an ally. But, once inside, don’t stay attached at the hip. Separate and use the opportunity to work the room, double the exposure and even talk each other up. Then, you can offer introductions, a la “Hey, my friend knows a lot about this subject—let me introduce you.”
2. Take the sales pressure off by making networking about building relationships. This is not the time to sell your products or ask for business. Think long-term: there’s much more value in building lasting relationships than in getting short-term sales. So, don’t make networking an exercise in how many cards you can give/get an hour. Better to develop one or two really good connections instead.
3. When the inevitable question, “So—what do you do for a living?,” comes up, don’t just say “I’m a lawyer,” or I’m a consultant.” Think in terms of the value you bring to the table, and how you can present it as an interesting conversation opener that sparks questions. Often, when I say “I help clients become more confident and successful in the workplace,” many interesting questions and conversations follow.
4. Always remember—you are not alone in your discomfort. Most people feel the same about networking as you. They’re just as uncomfortable. So, try focusing on helping others relax. You may be surprised: it could help you relax too.