How to Work a Room Without Feeling Nervous
By Helen Godfrey, MA, NCC, BCC, LPC
Maybe you feel confident tweaking your LinkedIn profile, but your palms sweat when you think about building connections face to face. With a little advanced planning and positive thinking, you can be just as poised at networking events as you are behind your computer screen. Try these suggestions for working a room.
Steps to Take Before Your Networking Events
1. Do your research. Advanced research is a great solution whenever you want to calm your nerves and make a strong impression. Browse online for details about the event, venue, and expected crowd.
2. Clarify your purpose. Focus on your goals instead of the butterflies in your stomach. Maybe you want to invite two new acquaintances out for coffee. Maybe you want to consult with experts about the impact of recent legislation on your industry. What are you hoping to gain from attending this event?
3. Bring a friend. While you eventually want to be able to muster the courage to fly solo, companionship can help while you're still in training. Just be sure to split up frequently so you can mingle with others.
4. Volunteer your services. Transform yourself into an instant insider. Call the hosts and offer to help with registration or escorting speakers. You'll probably meet more participants, and your role provides an instant icebreaker as guests come to you for information.
5. Prepare small talk. Are you stumped for something to say? Read up on breaking industry news. Listen to some interesting podcasts with universal themes that everyone can relate to and that may be relevant for this particular group. Write down the questions you would to discuss with other guests.
6. Dress the part. Appearances count too. Convey that you have a lot in common by going along with the dress code for suits and ties, or polo shirts and khakis. You'll feel more at ease and start to build rapport.
7. Bring mints. Smell as good as you look. Fresh breath makes it easier to wow others with what you have to say.
Steps to Take at Your Networking Events
1. Radiate enthusiasm. Smile wide and think positive. Remember that the event may be beneficial for your career. Also, think about how you can help others. You may have some information or connections that others may find helpful.
2. Straighten up. Good posture boosts your mood and shows others that you're strong and capable. Tuck your stomach in and roll your shoulders back and down.
3. Make eye contact. Starting conversations with strangers can be challenging. Establishing eye contact is a natural way to gain someone's attention and introduce yourself. From there, you can start chatting about the food or the program.
4. Express interest. Guests at a networking event are likely to be eager to talk about themselves and their business. Ask open-ended questions that keep the conversation going. Share your own relevant experiences.
5. Be authentic. There's plenty of advice available about networking. Sift through the information for tips that match your strengths and personality.
6. Slow down. Pace yourself. Be courteous and friendly to each guest, but reserve your business cards for those colleagues you're interested in following up with. Enjoy your initial conversations without rushing to connect on social media or promote your own products and services. Healthy relationships are based on trust that grows over time.
7. Move along. Leave your contacts wanting more. It's usually more productive to strike up brief conversations and make plans to talk again later if you think you've discovered a potential client or partner. That way you can dial down the pressure and explore more options.
Show up at annual conventions and monthly luncheons ready to make new contacts and stay in touch with old friends. Create business and social opportunities by reaching out to others. Allow your real self to shine through and feel your newfound confidence.