Networking is a highly valuable skill to have. Whether it’s in person or virtual, there are many benefits to meeting new people, connecting over your similarities, and developing new professional and personal connections.
However, sometimes networking feels awkward. It’s like you’re walking up to the popular kids at school and saying, “Hi, can we be friends?” and hoping for a positive response. The good news? Everyone feels awkward sometimes, and in professional networking settings, people are usually extra nice.
If you’d like to avoid feeling awkward at your next networking event, we’ve got some tried and true tips.
Find a Networking Buddy
Everything’s easier with a friend by your side! If you’re brand new to networking events, find a friend or coworker to go with you. If that’s not an option, check out the RSVP list to see if you know anyone attending.
The more the merrier!
If You’re Alone, Seek Out Others Who Are Flying Solo
It’s important to remember that others may feel just as uncomfortable or awkward as you do. When you’re at your next networking event, find others who are hanging out solo and start talking to them.
If you’re shy, seek out your fellow wallflowers and start there. Chances are, you’ll both immediately feel more comfortable and open to socializing.
Come With an Opener (or an Elevator Pitch)
It never hurts to have your talking points prepared ahead of time. There are a couple of different ways to approach this. One option is to have your “elevator pitch” ready to go. Craft an introduction and summary of who you are, what you do, and what you’re hoping to get out of networking.
If you’d like to keep it more casual, just have a handful of talking points prepared. This could be the latest sports news, general news that you find interesting, your opinion on the new Netflix show everyone is talking about, or even just commentary over the appetizers and drinks provided at the event.
Now is the time to hone your chit-chatting skills!
Seek Out Similarities
Take this as you will, but the average human isn’t actually that unique. When you attend a networking event, rest assured that you will always find that you have at least one thing in common with someone.
Sometimes it’s your favorite sports team, a TV show that you’re actively watching, the last book you read, or an upcoming video game you’re excited about — the possibilities are endless.
Always Hype Yourself Up
Confidence is key, and sometimes when you’re not feeling confident, you have to fake it ‘til you make it. That includes hyping yourself up before you head out to network.
There are a ton of different hacks for making yourself feel more confident, but some of our favorites are:
- Listen to your favorite “pump up” music on the way to the event
- Practice saying affirmations to yourself to trick your brain into feeling confident
- If you have a minute alone, do some power poses in the mirror
Do It Frequently
The first step to being good at something is being kind of bad at something. In other words, you’ll only get better if you practice. This is especially true for networking and talking to people. You can prepare as much as you want, but the only thing that’s actually going to improve your skills is doing it again and again.
The more you do it, the less awkward it becomes. So get out there, sign up for some networking events, and get practicing!