Everyone networks to some degree, by becoming known to new people; it’s just the number of new people that can make networking seem scary.

So why is talking to new people scary?  Being put on the spot or putting yourself out there can be daunting, especially if you’re not a particularly outgoing person.  Talking about what you do with a friend or family member is probably completely comfortable whilst the thought of walking up to a stranger to start talking about your work can bring new networkers out in a cold sweat; but this is why it shouldn’t:

You’re all in the same boat

Everyone there is in the same position as you – they probably know few or no other people there and will be hoping for you to walk over and engage them in a conversation.  Even if two people have come from the same place, it’s no good to them having a chat about work to each other at a networking event, so they’re going to be grateful to you for coming over to say hello, too.

There’s no script

If the idea of telling someone about where you work (or even scarier; about what it is exactly that you do) makes you want to run for the nearest exit, just remember that everyone else is going to have to do the same.  There’s no script for what you need to say and if you miss something out that you had planned to say before it was your turn, it’s okay because only you will know.

You are who you are

If you’re new to a company or don’t know everything about every product or service you offer, just be honest. It’s far better than trying to blag an answer that doesn’t sound quite right and then feeling silly.  There is no shame in owning up to not knowing something and being open and honest about it, in fact it can often present an opportunity for you to ask for contact details of the person asking so that you can find out the answer and get back to them with an answer later on.

It’s not all about you

Anyone who has ever been unlucky enough to be set up on a blind date will know that their friends will have lots of tips of what to talk to the other person about, like ‘Ask her about her dog’ or ‘Don’t whatever you do say that you think fishing is boring.’  Whilst you don’t have the same advantage with networking, 99% of the time people will be happy to answer questions about themselves and their work, so if you’re feeling a bit tongue tied turn the conversation around and ask them what they’re working on at the minute, or what they enjoy about their job.

At the end of the day, what is the worst that could happen?  Going a bit red when you’re talking with 20+ pairs of eyes focused on you is completely normal and there’s no-one at a networking event who is likely to blank you if you walk up to them and introduce yourself.

Still not convinced?

Top tips:

  • Talk about something work related that you think is interesting.  Not only will you come across as caring about the product/service you’re telling someone else about, but the chances are they’ll find it interesting too.
  • Try everything once.  Sometimes the events that seem terrifying are the most fun!
  • Stick with the events you enjoy.  If you’re enjoying them then you’re most likely to be coming across well and speaking to more people.  Plus, if you find a couple that you can go to regularly you’ll start to develop closer relationships with the other regulars as well as begin to feel more comfortable with new people when they come along for the first time.
  • Say hello.  If someone is looking lost or isn’t stood talking to someone else, even if you are, invite them to join you.  They’re probably a bit scared like you used to be!

The proof of the pudding (or breakfast in this case) is in the eating

If you don’t like sitting around in a circle and taking turns to talk about yourself, try a monthly networking event where the emphasis is on informality and meeting in a relaxed atmosphere.

With no formal speeches or presentations The Business Exchange Network in Leicester takes place on the first Thursday of every month (at The Exchange on Rutland Street) from 7.30-9am and is an excellent informal event with no speeches, presentations and no need to register.  You can just come along whenever you can to a great city centre location, to meet other local business people who enjoy informal networking over a free morning coffee and pastry.  What have you got to lose?