Networking is important for your professional career. (Boring intro, I know!)
In fact, we all know that we need to be constantly networking and marketing our businesses so that we can continue to grow (and close high caliber leads).
Despite this fact, many entrepreneurs really struggle with it. It’s hard.
Some people dread the thought of trying to make small talk with others. Others are so shy that they have a hard time attending networking events. Then, there are those who are not good at networking at all, no matter how hard they try.
Often, for introverted entrepreneurs, it can seem like the harder they try, the worse it gets (and they come across as pushy which makes them uncomfortable to be around).
Here are three ways to suck less at networking.
1. Attend a local event (at least) once per month.
There are so many different networking events that you can find out about online and through word of mouth. You should have no problem finding one to attend each month. Search around on Meetup.com to find groups that look interesting to you.
You can attend events for professional networking or just join a group of people who enjoy the same hobbies as your customers. Start getting yourself and your company name out there by attending targeted events. You may be amazed at the valuable feedback or referrals you’ll get (not to mention the fun you’ll have trying new things).
2. Mingle with different people.
Do you spend time at every networking event with the same people? If so, you’re not alone. It is easy to network with people you already know. However, you need to get out of your comfort zone and meet some new people.
Otherwise, you are not doing anything to help you grow your network which can impact your overall business growth. Remember, you are there to spread the word and meet new contacts, not just spend time with your friends. Ask people you already know to introduce you to others.
If you are really stuck in a rut with the same people, attend different events. I enjoy the challenge of going to an event where I know no one … it will force you to start talking.
3. Start networking online first.
There are millions of potential customers online. You just need to reach them by combining your social media marketing efforts with networking.
Join some groups and start interacting. Start a Facebook Brand page or create a Twitter account, follow local people of interest, and turn on notifications. And don’t forget to follow-up with people from events and tweet helpful resources to get on the radar of potential business connections.
Just because you might suck at networking, it does not mean that you have to give up (unless you’re shoving business cards in people’s faces and not genuniely listening and taking interest of new contacts — then please do; just stay home!).
It takes time to become comfortable around people. With time, patience, and practice you can become great at networking. You may even look forward to meeting new people once you get in the groove!
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.