May 17, 2019
Networking, the word every successful entrepreneur, creative pursuer and mentor talks about. “The one and the only thing you need to do to succeed in life”. If you have ever attended an event where networking is a possibility or even obligatory, you know it can be really hard getting around to doing it. Even though everyone wants the same thing, you just want to bury yourself through the ground with your lukewarm beer in your hand. And if this was not hard enough — doing it is as an introvert sure is.
The first step to networking includes finding an event to attend in the first place. This is the easy part. In most locations there often loads of events in the genre of your interest that involves mingling or networking with other people. I would recommend browsing websites like Eventbrite, Meetup, and Facebook to find interesting events. I would also highly recommend not to attend meetups solely focused on networking — since this often puts pressure on the attendees to talk to as many people as possible in as little time as possible, instead of engaging in quality conversations. Try finding events of your interest that you sense might include networking in some form. One important thing to remember is, it will always end up being more fun than you think when signing up for an event.
Going into a room of strangers with the goal to build connections is a tough task. People struggle with this and you are certainly not alone. The last thing you want to do in a situation like this is to leave the room and go to the toilet or pick up your phone. The first one will lead to fewer people to talk to when coming back (people group quickly), and the latter one to people not seeing you as a possible person to strike a conversation with. It is important to remember it is okay to be scared and nervous in a situation like this. More or less everyone feels this way and it is a natural thing to be nervous for.
I want to clarify that I am not an expert at this. I am also an introvert and struggle big time with naturally starting conversations and connect with people in an instance. Although, at this point — I have been on enough events and get-togethers that I do not pick up my phone or run off to the toilet. Starting off with scanning through the room and looking for people that are not already in a conversation is a good idea.
Just diving right into another already formed group of people is usually not a good idea. This will most often just kill the current conversation and make it even harder for you to connect with the people in the group. You will quickly get silently stamped as the “odd one out”. What you want to do instead is to find anyone that is in the same position as you. Lost and with no idea what to do. Except, you now do. Walk up to the person and introduce yourself. This will not only release the pressure of you not fitting in anywhere — but also do the same for that person. This is the hardest step. After this, the conversation will often flow naturally and you will probably know what to say.
If you, on the other hand, have no idea how to start a conversation. Try asking something like “- What brings you here tonight?”. It is a simple and great introduction. This is because people love talking about themselves. Every conversation we have with someone, we unconsciously try to find connections and relations with our own experiences and can counter with something relatable. This is a very natural behavior and therefore starting a conversation with something like “- What brings you here?” instantly sparks a persons’ interest in talking to you.
Managing a conversation with a stranger can be really difficult. It can be even more difficult if you sense the person is not interested throughout the conversation. Seeing her/him glance over your shoulder at someone else can send you sinking through the floor with your lukewarm beer again. At this point, it is important to not give up. Try winning their interest back by focusing and talking clearer, slightly louder and looking them in the eyes. Talk about something you feel they are interested in and ask about their opinion on it. The goal here is to finish the conversation on a positive note and find common ground on something that can benefit both of you in one way or another.
While talking to one person, there might be other people joining the conversation after a while. This will generate the possibility of meeting other people too. The first conversation you are in might not end up being the best one — but instead, lead to other interesting conversations. At least that is often what happens to me. I’m speaking to one person as suddenly she/he introduces me to a friend of her/his that end up being the person I share details with before leaving. Do not get hung up on the first conversation being the perfect connection.
Before leaving to go network with other people in the room, always remember to mention switching details later on before you leave. It does not matter if the conversation did not go precisely as you planned or the connection was not perfect. Going back before leaving, to switch details and thank one another, ensures ending on a good note and open for future meetings and conversations.