You might be the most talented individual in your respective field, but if you have trouble networking with fellow business people and entrepreneurs you might find yourself lagging behind. Networking can help you in all forms of business: finding work, finding talent, and even finding investors. Everyone is not gifted with the social skills required for networking, however, so we’ve put together a couple tips to help those of you who might be a bit shy when it comes to mingling and networking.
Start with the basics: A lot of networking is simply being able to maintain a conversation, something we’ve done our whole lives. Even if you’re a little shy there are some things you can do to instantly relieve the anxiety that comes with conversation. Smile! Smiling will not only put you in a better mood, but will do so for the person you’re talking to as well. It will naturally lower their defenses and make conversation flow easier.
Ask questions: Now that you’ve lowered their defenses, get the topic of conversation on them by asking questions. Not only do some people enjoy talking about their own personal passions, but it allows you to gauge the tone of the conversation and follow suit when it’s your turn to talk.
Leverage your passions: One of the easiest ways you’ll find to network is by attending things you’re already passionate about. It’s much easier to connect with others who share that passion. Do you love comic books? Then maybe you should start by attending some conventions. You’re a budding web designer? There are groups all over the country dedicated to design that will allow you to flex your conversation muscle in a group of like-minded individuals.
Public speaking class: While slightly different than one-on-one conversation, taking a class on public speaking will help you get over a lot of the fear and anxiety associated with conversing in front of people you don’t know. If you can talk to a room full of strangers, you can definitely talk to just one!
Rejection and risks: These two go hand in hand. While it can be intimidating, you will have to get over your fear of rejection if you plan to be a successful networker. The key is to never dwell on it. There will always be people who can’t (or don’t want) to help you, and that’s ok. Just move on. Once the fear of rejection is out of the way, you can then move on to taking on greater risks more often. Because without fear of rejection, even the boldest risks begin to feel tame. The great Walt Disney was fired from a newspaper because “he lacked imagination and had no good ideas,” but that didn’t stop him. Don’t let it stop you!
Some people are natural networkers and some people aren’t. And that’s okay. The key is to never get discouraged and to keep pushing forward. Start small by networking with friends and family and continue working your way up the chain. You’ll be surprised by how much you grow if you just keep pushing forward. Don’t let fear and anxiety stop you from following your entrepreneurial passions. Networking is a great and powerful key, one that can open up a multitude of doors to help in your success; use it!