Adrenaline rush, anxiousness, nausea, dry throat, sweaty hands , check.
If you’re feeling this way, I’m going to venture to guess you’re attending a business networking event (or speaking at one). It’s also likely that you don’t know a single person in the room and you are standing in the corner hoping and praying that someone will take pity on you and strike up a conversation.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Attending a professional networking event with a little strategy can go a long way. You can learn to network with confidence without morphing into one of those people that immediately pitch their business and shove their business card in your face. “Ick!”
Here are a few tips and icebreakers to ease your nerves before your next professional networking event:
1. Get interested.
Ask, “What brought you here today?” This is a great question to ask to break the ice and learn a about fellow attendees and their event goals. This also gives your new contact an opportunity to do a little “business bragging” of their own, while you listen intently.
2. Be authentic.
Go “au naturale,” so to speak. Stumped for something to say? Most likely you’re not the only one. Walk up to someone and introduce yourself. Then tell people it’s your first time attending the event (if that’s the case) and you don’t know anyone. People connect with authenticity.
3. Check the roster.
Decide who you want to meet in advance. Usually a professional event will list a roster of speakers on their website or highlight attendees. If there’s someone you genuinely want to meet, make an effort to do so. They’ll be happy you did! For example, at a conference I attended recently, several people came up to me who recognized me from my website. One gal in particular shouted, “I’m so excited to meet you, I have been a fan of yours for years and I can’t believe I get to meet you in person.” I was so flattered! I could tell she was nervous when she approached me, possibly wondering how I would react to her enthusiasm, but I was incredibly happy to meet a fan — and even happier to get to know her.
4. Spread good news.
Share relevant news. If you’re attending an industry-specific event, make sure to read up on the latest news such as statistics, new industry models, or breaking stories that can make interesting conversation starters.
5. Follow-up with a select few.
Don’t forget to get a card from people you’d like to keep in touch with and then set up a post-event pow-wow. Don’t wait for people to follow-up with you — take initiative and follow up within 48-hours!
Now it’s your turn to take action. What events do you have coming up, and which strategy will you use? Post a comment below and let me know.