Hate to Network? 14 Tricks That Will Help You Succeed at Any Event
Have you ever had those moments where you think of every excuse under the sun not to go to an event for work to network?
The thought of gloating about yourself to strangers or engaging in small talk makes your skin crawl, and every time you talk to someone, you overthink the words that come out of your mouth. If this all sounds familiar, it might be a social anxiety — or you might just be human.
According to Anxiety and Depression Association of America, about 40 million Americans suffer from some sort of anxiety disorder. So combine that with networking or some work event and that could equal a mess of a situation that one would want to avoid. However, don’t hide under the rug just yet, there are ways for people to network without overthinking it and second-guessing themselves.
Check out the following 14 tricks you can use to ease your way into feeling comfortable with networking.
Go Easy on Yourself
First of all, know that compassion is a key component when it comes to managing your anxiety. You don’t want to beat yourself up when you happen to say the wrong thing (it’s okay, we all do it!) or talk to yourself negatively when you don’t create that connection you were hoping for.
Networking isn’t easy, and no one likes doing it, but unfortunately, it’s something we all have to do to get ahead in our career. So instead of beating yourself up, show compassion to yourself when things don’t go right. This could be taking a deep breath when you feel off balance, or telling yourself, “You’ve got this” when you want to walk out the door.
Treat yourself like you would a friend, and the evening might even surprise you.
Create Comfort, Bring Support
Whether you’re new to networking events or you still feel uncomfortable, it might be a good idea to bring a friend with you to ease the tension you may feel.
Nowadays, it’s completely normal for people to bring friends to enjoy the festivities. Not only will you have someone you like hanging out with you, but you won’t feel weird if you randomly go up to a stranger and talk with them because your friend will be there with you to engage in the conversation as well.
It might sound silly to prep questions beforehand, but this will prevent any awkward silences from occurring when you’re chatting with a stranger. Ask questions based on things you love or things you would hope to discuss.
The conversation may flow easier when you both begin to engage in something you and this person are both excited about. Plus, people always love talking about themselves, so inquiring about their life will make them feel important and liked.
Step Away to Collect Your Thoughts
Having social anxiety doesn’t mean you’re just shy and don’t know how to talk to people. It means that you sometimes over-analyze social situations that you’re in because you’re afraid of making a mistake or sounding foolish — and, frankly, that stress can get exhausting.
So to help balance this emotion, it’s never a bad idea to escape for a few minutes. Head to the bathroom to collect your thoughts, go to the back of the room and take a few deep breaths.
Listen to your body and know when you need to pull back to take a break. Doing so can recharge your batteries when you’re feeling low or overwhelmed.
Reality Check Your Self-Doubt
You were invited to this event for a reason. They wanted you to be there because they like your work and trust you.
No one is better or worse than you at these events, and while it might be hard to sometimes see that, reminding yourself that everyone is human and have an equal reason to be at these things means you shouldn’t doubt yourself, your talents, or the things you have to say.
And if someone thinks otherwise, remember to treat yourself with kindness and don’t agree with this person’s body language or words. Because the only person you should be aiming to impress is you, not them.
Activate Those Feel-Good Neurotransmitters
Smiling for no reason sounds like something a serial killer would do, but this act has been proven to release serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins, which are those feel-good neurotransmitters everyone needs to feel happy.
This trick is especially important if you go to the event alone. Walk around, make eye contact every now and then, and then smile. People will think that you’re a friendly person and will be more likely to approach and talk with you.
Go in a Good Frame of Mind
If your nerves are coming on hard, opt to call one of your closest friends before the event to put you in a good mood.
Sometimes talking with someone familiar can help you feel more confident about yourself because you’re engaging with someone who likes you as a person. It can remind you that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with you.
Minimize the Jitters
Depending on the time of the event, try to avoid drinks that will make you even more nervous.
Coffee, caffeinated tea or sodas are a big no-no and could easily raise your heart rate. However, if you need coffee to wake you up in the morning to be a little coherent, opt for a smaller cup than you would usually get.
Be mindful of what you consume so you can give 100 percent when you’re at these events.
And Stay Sober
While you don’t want your anxiety to skyrocket because of caffeinated beverages, you also don’t want to feel so relaxed that you don’t realize the words that are coming out of your mouth.
To be safe, drink a maximum of two alcoholic drinks. This can help you feel calmer without reliving your college days, you know what I mean?
Be Realistic, Start Slow
Going to a networking event doesn’t mean you’re going to burst through that door like Wonder Woman and kick booty in small talk and become friends with every person in the building. While that would be amazing, it’s also not a bad idea to take one step at a time.
For instance, for your next event, aim to talk to one person; just one. Then talk to two or three people at the following event. Give yourself a new task each time to go to an event so you’ll feel proud of your mini accomplishes and won’t feel sad when you felt like you didn’t do what you were hoping to.
There's More to Life Than Work
Just because you’re going to a networking event doesn’t mean the only thing you should talk about is work. There are much better ways to connect with someone aside from talking about your accomplishments or the companies that you work for.
Begin the dialogue by asking about where they’re from, what they do for fun, or if they’ve seen any movies lately. Once you begin conversing about these things, you may feel more comfortable talking about yourself and the work that you do.
Be Present and Be Yourself
If you’re second-guessing your thoughts and words because you want to make the right impression, then you won’t show genuine interest in the things you’re talking about.
Instead, be yourself. Trust yourself enough that you bring value to every conversation you’ll have in these type of situations. Don’t be afraid to express how much you admire someone or how excited you are to be at the event.
People may be more inclined to talk more with you when you’re authentic because they feel like they can truly trust you and what you’re saying.
For people who have social anxiety, it’s pretty easy for them to hide behind their phone. It prevents them from feeling awkward or stops them from making the wrong move and a fool out of themselves.
But honestly, if this is something that you do, there’s no point for you to be at the event if you’re just going to look down at your phone the whole time, right?
Opt to switch things up the next time you need to network. Try to put your phone away for 15 minutes and walk around the room. Grab a few snacks to keep your hands busy and politely introduce yourself to someone new.
After 15 minutes, if you’re not talking to someone, feel free to go back to your phone for a few minutes, and then do the same thing over again.
It Takes Practice
As much as you want to say “one and done,” it’s important to keep going to these events so you can practice networking, because the more you practice networking, the better you’ll become at it.
Aim to go to at least five events in one month and try to become friendly with at least one person from each event.
The more you do this, the more acquaintances you’ll make, which could make you feel more comfortable going to events in the future because you’ll actually know a few familiar faces.