Networking is a word that makes even the best of us cringe. There’s something about putting ourselves out there that feels… Invasive? Fake?
This necessary evil becomes more unavoidable every day. We assume everyone is better at it than we are. We are hard on ourselves for being unable to have “fun” in an environment supposedly designed for just that. We go to networking events, we stand on the sidelines and it doesn’t seem to get any better.
No matter your reason for avoiding it, networking is a professional development skill that we can all get better at when taken one step at a time. At Bespoken, we give people tools to network on their own terms, training people 1×1 or in small group settings (if you’re in NYC, join us on April 12th at Spark Labs for our networking masterclass—early bird discount available through April 5th—click here to register).
Here are some actionable techniques to implement the next time you walk into a room:
Reframe the experience
Walking into a networking event can produce feelings of stress and anxiety, especially if you’ve had bad experiences in the past. Give yourself an intention that has nothing to do with the word “networking”. Make a connection, or make it a goal to help other people, not yourself. Reframing the experience will help you feel ownership over it as you build your own strategy going forward.
Go outside In
Give yourself a physical task—something you can commit to 100% in the moment. Force a smile (it works!) or choose to stand with your arms at your sides instead of crossed (body language is a powerful tool when used effectively). Changing up your physicality limits negative past associations and gets you out of your head.
Make eye contact
Practice eye contact in a safe space and with people you know so that it’s there for you when you need it. It helps to decrease stress and can aid in making a connection.
Initiate—but not too much
Talk to a few people—but no more than that. Make someone on the sidelines feel more comfortable, or compliment someone on their business card, their shoes, anything! Giving yourself little victories will help you feel ownership over this skillset!
It sounds cheesy but giving yourself something to look forward to can alleviate a ton of pressure from the experience of networking. Treat yourself to dessert on the way home or bookend the event with fun plans (temptation bundling is a thing and it works!).
Let us know how these techniques work for you and join us on April 12th at Spark Labs for our networking masterclass—click here to register.