Networking events are the perfect place to meet people to help you grow your business. However, if you are a shy person by nature, they can be your worst fear.
In fact, “if you’re shy you have lots of company. Nearly one of two Americans claims to be shy. What’s more, the incidence is rising, and technology may be turning ours into a culture of shyness.”
You might think you can get away without professional networking, but you really need to face your fears so you can grow your business.
Here are some tips for shy people who want to succeed at networking.
1. Be yourself.
Many people can be pushy and aggressive when they network. There is nothing wrong with being shy and awkward in networking situations. It happens more than you realize. You may even bond with someone over it!
2. Ask for an introduction.
Ask someone you know to introduce you to others. Though you may want to spend the evening with someone that you know, it defeats the purpose of going to a networking event. Instead, ask that person to introduce you to others. This is much easier than walking up to strangers and introducing yourself!
3. Smile at others.
If you don’t have someone to introduce you, try smiling at others. This can be perceived as an invitation for others to come over and talk to you. Be sure to really listen and join in the conversation. Even if it is not going to help your business, it is good practice.
4. Join a club or group.
Find a club that relates to something that you really enjoy. If you enjoy reading, join a book club. If you like to watch football, find others that like the same thing. Once you get more comfortable around new people that have similar interests, you will have an easier time opening up to people that don’t.
Always be yourself because most of the people at the event are also feeling a bit awkward. If you know someone, feel free to ask someone to introduce you to others. If not, be sure to smile at others and use open body language to invite them over to you.
You also might want to practice networking by joining a group of people who like similar things such as reading books, volunteering, wine tastings or watching football. Once you get comfortable talking about something you love, it will be easier at a networking event.
This article has been edited and condensed.
Matt “Handshakin” Holmes is an entrepreneur, speaker, author, and world record holder. He is Founder of the Handshakin Video Series, featuring top entrepreneurs on networking and personal branding strategies.Connect with @handshakin on Twitter.