We have always emphasized the importance of networking, having an elevator pitch at hand, and building your connections at job fairs, seminars and every other place you might find yourself in. What we might not have mentioned was one key ingredient to it all – networking with confidence.
Walking up to total strangers in the professional sphere and pitching yourself. Making acquaintances can be a daunting task, especially if you are an introvert. Here are ways you can build your confidence.
1. Prepare Ahead
One of the biggest ways to shoot yourself in the foot is to fail to prepare ahead for anything. Before the event, make sure you know who’s going to be there. Even if you don’t have the guests’ list, knowing what fields of attendees will keep unnecessary surprises at bay.
Armed with the information of those that will be present, will know how to broach topics.
2. Prepare Icebreakers
Icebreakers are good for one thing – breaking the ice.
They help you out of tight situations. You should have a variety of them that relate to different topics. That way, you will be able to adapt in whatever situation you find yourself.
You could ask about the weather, the event itself or just introduce yourself. A simple “Hello, my name is ____” is usually sufficient.
3. Warm Up
If you have a guest list, chances are you picked someone as the main target to network at that event. It would be wrong to get there and go meet that person right off. Run some tests of your networking methods with other participants at the event.
You will find out that you are more at home around them since they are not your main targets, helping to build confidence and rhythm before getting to your main catch.
As a rule, don’t treat your supposed test runs with disrespect. You don’t know who you might strike up a conversation with and what they could do for you too.
4. Body Language
You might not know this but less than 10% of your communication is verbal. The rest is non-verbal. When networking, stand upright, put your chin up and look straight at your partner but don’t stare at them. Give off the confidence vibe – everyone loves that. Don’t have it? Fake it till it happens naturally.
5. Ask Questions
What we love the most about questions is how it shifts the focus to the other person, helps you gather your thoughts while they answer and above all, allows you break into new conversation territory.
Ask your contact open-ended question that you can both relate to. It could range from something about a common passion (sports, maybe) to the professional scene. You’ll be surprised at how better the conversation will get from this stage.
Above all, have fun! It might be a networking event, but it is still an event afterall.