Home > Uncategorized > Shy guy? How to get the ball rolling at a networking event

Shy guy? How to get the ball rolling at a networking event

For once, here’s some useful information. Drumroll, please.. best practices for rocking networking events.

Everybody knows networking is professionally crucial, especially in the vacuum that is today’s job market, but I’ve met a great many people who are too shy to get started or uncomfortable with talking to strangers.

Forget what your mom told you – taMeeting new peoplelk to strangers. Every chance you get. The most rewarding friendships and professional relationships I’ve ever had have resulted from my affinity for talking to strangers. Even if you’re not particularly curious about the fellow next to you in the elevator, the more you get used to extending a handshake for no particular reason, the better off you’ll be when it’s time to hit the next networking event.  Also, the better off you’ll be in general, in my opinion.

Where do you find out about them? Do some research. Get on some email lists and newsletters. Find a local Yahoo group for people in your industry or potential clients’ industry, check your local business journal’s calendar, or ask a networking rockstar where they hear about events.

I’m not going to describe what you should do while networking. Everybody knows that you should: not talk too much about yourself, don’t sell, look people in the eye, smile, and shake hands firmly.

( Duh.)

The really tough part is getting started.

Walking into a crowded networking event where everybody seems absorbed in conversation can be intimidating. How do you get started? My modus operandi: head for the bar, first thing, even if you’re only ordering a soda. The bar is where people tend to hit the “pause” button on their conversations while they’re waiting to get the bartender’s attention. It’s the most fertile spot in the room to turn to someone, smile, and extend a handshake.  Come on, they’re bored. Give them something to do. From there, making conversation is easy. Best question to start out with: “Do you know a lot of people here?” If the answer is no, great! You’re both in the same boat and you can tag-team it. If the answer is yes, great! Ask them if there’s anybody particularly interesting you ought to meet, and to introduce you. (Incidentally, people like that. It’s flattering that someone thinks they’re in the know.)

One thing to always remember: everybody goes to networking events for the same reason – to meet new people. It’s expected of you – and greatly appreciated – to walk up to a group and introduce yourself. Get used to it. It’ll serve you well.

Lastly: this may be another “duh,” but follow up. The morning after an event, I gather all the business cards I collected and begin dashing off emails. I try to mention something we chatted about or remind them of a favor one of us offered the other. (Plus, I always write the when/where we met on the back of the card, plus a little note if something jumped out at me about them. It’s easy to forget that kind of thing, and having the situation associated with their name can help you retrieve mental info about them later.) (If you can’t for the life of you remember who the guy is, check the company website or their Facebook page – often seeing their face will jar your memory.) If they write back – which they really, really, really should, friend them on Facebook (given that you use your profile for professional purposes) and connect on LinkedIn.

By the way, all this applies to meeting new friends, too.

Future post: Don’t let those connections sit idle. They rot.

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