Seven Top Tips for the Nervous Networker

 

Walking into a room full of strangers with the aim of developing relationships can be at best daunting, and at worst terrifying.

Last week I ran a workshop on “how to network” for Better Bankside’s Events Academy, a fantastic initiative which offers young people in Southwark a work experience programme which provides insight into a wide range of businesses. To prepare for the workshop I spent some time speaking to a range of professionals and consolidating my own experience, to provide some advice on how to approach a networking event.

 

Be clear on what your objectives are

It is useful to think about what you are looking to get out of a networking event. Objectives could be as tangible as meeting a number of potential clients, or it could be as general as gaining confidence and improving your ability to “work a room”, either way, it is useful to think about why you are attending.

 

Elevator Pitch

If you are new to networking and nervous about introducing yourself, it might be worth thinking of a refined opening statement, a couple of lines which summarises your profile or your business that’s at the forefront of your mind when you first speak to people. i.e.

“I have recently graduated with an MSc in Sustainable Design, my background before graduating was in architecture. Now I am looking to start my career and thought it would be worth attending this event to meet other professionals in the sector, what do you do?”

 

Presence

I’m sure we all know someone with a natural charisma or presence who can effortlessly strike up conversations with strangers and build relationships with ease?

As simple as it may sound, having presence means being present. In the context of networking, if you are at a networking event, network. Don’t look at your phone or speak to people that you came with; approach people or groups of people with a smile and an outstretched hand. Look the person in the eye when you speak to them and make sure that you remember their name.

 

What to say?

Networking isn’t a speed dating sales pitch; it is about expanding your network and building relations ships. In a professional networking event, the conversation doesn’t have to be work specific, often communicating on a personal level is a great precursor to a business relationship. Opening questions can include:

  • What do you do?
  • What brings you here?
  • What are you hoping to get out of this event?

 

What can you offer?

Networking is not just a means of improving opportunities for yourself, but also you helping other people. When speaking to people, as well as understanding how they can help you achieve your objectives, see how you can help them. Perhaps you have met someone earlier at the event or you already know someone who could be a useful contact for them, make the introduction. If you are a “connector”, people will thank you in the long run!

 

Overcome your fear

For many people networking can be a daunting prospect with common concerns including; what will I talk about, am I interesting enough? What if people don’t want to talk to me? The majority of these fears lead back ultimately to the fear of rejection and the best way to overcome this fear is by stepping out of your comfort zone and facing it! As one person I spoke to put it, “life begins at the edge of your comfort zone.”

 

Follow up

Following up is an integral part of networking and so important to developing the relationships that you have just forged. It is worth connecting with everyone that you meet on LinkedIn and following up with a brief message, or sending them an email. If there is a particular action to follow up from your conversation, make sure you address it in your follow up message.

 

Ultimately the key to networking is being polite, friendly and crucially; biting the bullet and get talking to people!

 


I joined Mattinson Partnership in the autumn of 2015, with a keen curiosity in sustainability having graduated from Newcastle University in 2013 with a BA in Geography. I have a genuine interest in the industry and I am motivated by finding the best professionals and partnering them with the array of leading organisations that I support. When I’m not in the office I enjoy surfing, skiing and downhill mountain biking.

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