Last week, I wrote about Schmoozaphobia – a made-up word about a very real condition that may be limiting you as an entrepreneur. Did any of the negative self-talk phrases sound painfully familiar? If they did, don’t worry… as they say, the first step in recovery is realizing you have a problem.
Because networking is so crucial to the growth of your business, stepping out of your comfort zone is mandatory. So how do you overcome your fears and conquer Schmoozaphobia?
Try these 15 effective networking strategies! Put them to work, and before long you’ll be an accomplished networker and recovering Schmoozaphobe.
Before the Event:
- Choose your events carefully. If you find large crowds intimidating, start slow by attending a smaller event like a happy hour or lunch-and-learn.
- Practice what you want to say. Create a 30-second self-intro, and rehearse it until it flows easily. Then think about what you’ll say next if they say “Tell me more!”
- Wear something that stands out, like a flamboyant tie or a purple scarf. It makes you memorable and can be a conversation starter.
- Arrive with a specific plan in mind – “I’m going to meet four new people tonight” or “I’m going to give out four of my business cards.”
- Make sure to bring a pen. So when someone gives you their business card, you can make notes on the back to help you remember their details later.
When you arrive at the event:
- Bring a friend for moral support, but then split up and mingle separately. Hanging out only with people you know defeats the purpose of networking.
- Smile, even if you’re shaking on the inside. Remember that you’re here to meet new friends, not just business contacts.
- If you run into someone you know, ask them to introduce you to someone new.
- Hang out near the food. Everyone eventually passes through there, and it’s easy to strike up a conversation about the hors d’oeuvres.
- Take it easy on the alcohol – One drink may relax you, but too many drinks could be disastrous.
- Be enthusiastic and energetic when someone asks you what you do. If you’re not excited about what you do, no one else will be.
- Be conscious of body language. According to body language expert Alexander Vornoff, when people are standing directly facing each other, the conversation is closed. You can wait for an opening, or instead look for a conversation where the people aren’t facing each other head-on – this signals that they’re open for others to join in. It might seem easier to approach a group than an individual, but if you see someone standing alone with their back to a wall, walk up and introduce yourself. They’ll probably be grateful you reached out to them.
- Don’t make assumptions about someone based on how they look. That polished-looking dude in the three-piece suit could be a fellow Schmoozaphobe. And the one with the piercings and tattoos may be your perfect joint venture partner.
- Focus on the person you’re talking to. Don’t look at your phone or your watch or look around for other more interesting people.
After the Event:
When you get home, don’t forget to review the business cards you got and follow up with those people within a few days of the event. Think about it – If you don’t follow up with new people you met, why did you bother going?