There he is up on the screen: the cute, slightly nerdy guy who is smitten with the cute girl. He's too shy to approach her. Maybe they become friends. (Do not you hate when that happens?) And he suffers in silence. I sit in my theater seat obtaining he gets the confidence to let her know he's interested before the final credits roll. Of course, he does and they fall madly in love. That's why I pay the big bucks to have my shoes stick to the floor of the multiplex. It's been agonizing to watch and I wanted to scream from my seat, "Get over it! You're going to miss the chance of a lifetime if you do not get in the game."
Everyone has been shy at one time or another. Shyness gets in the way of meeting people, networking and building relationships. I'm a bit shy myself. People do not believe it since I talk to everyone and listen knowing knowing there's some fine networking going on where I am and I want to get me some. My social skills are learned and you can learn them, too.
Here are 19 tips to help you be more at ease networking.
1. Avoid humongous networking events. They are overwhelming. You can not hear conversation. People appear to be in cliques that are hard to break into. It's too easy to hide.
2. Start with small venues such as a meeting meeting, lecture, or business group that's heavy on inclusion.
3. Be prepared. Do you have business cards, a pen and a small notebook? Have you bathed and flossed? Are your nails manicure perfect? Are you comfortable in your attire? Do you feel good about how you present yourself? If not, get help putting together a networking outfit.
4. Have a goal in mind and a question to ask. For instance, your goal might be meet someone who knows how to use a certain software program. Develop a few questions about the program and ask people you meet if they know about the program or if they can introduce you to someone who does.
5. Smile. Be approachable.
6. Start conversations by finding a commonality. You and everyone in the room are in the same city and venue. You have the weather in common. You have the event and group in common. Talk about the weather. Ask someone if they've been to this event or location before. Ask if the person is from the city you're in.
7. If you have a friend or acquaintance at the event, ask that person to introduce you around.
8. Do not complain.
9. Do not apologize. Obviously, if you spill your dip on your partner's suede jacket, say, "I'm sorry." But, stop taking responsibility for war, global warming, your partner's problems and the rising cost of fuel. Stop putting yourself down. Do not announce you're not very good at networking. Do not apologize for taking up someone's time. If your partner has to split or is rude, do not apologize. Do not apologize for how you look, what you do, or that your name is hard to pronounce.
10. Ask open-ended questions and then listen. The answer to your first question prompts your next question. For instance, if you ask, "What brings you here?" And your networking partner answers, "I like the canapes," which which ones he likes and what he likes about them. If he says he likes the taste, ask him to tell you more.
11. Learn to read body language. If your partner looks away a lot, gazes at her watch or backs up, conclude your conversation. "Well Judy, it was nice meeting you. Do you have a card?" Take the card. Acknowledge it. Shake hands and be on your way.
12. Shake hands firmly and with confidence.
13. Be the one to move on first. Do not be left standing there.
14. Ask for the other person's business card and do not give your card out unless it's requested. Follow up and send the person your card as a reminder.
15. Do follow up with a note, call or e-mail. Promise to send your partner an article, resource or URL of interest.
16. Say, "Good-bye" to the people you met through the event. Just a quick, "It was nice meeting you," as you walk around the room on your way out will set you apart.
17. Practice talking to strangers. If you're in line at the Piggly Wiggly, strike up a conversation with the person behind you. "How do you like the bakery here?" Ask your teller (that's the person inside the bank who is a live ATM), how her day is going and what she likes about working at the bank. Really listen to the answer.
18. Get over yourself. Shyness is all about you. Pretend you're not shy. How would you act? Do not be fake or over the top. You do not have to be the life of the party. Be you – only more so.
19. Remember that introverts make excellent networkers because they are good listeners. Learn to be genially interested in other people. Develop an open-ended question or two and follow up. You'll have it made.
Other people are shy, too. Your job is to put them at ease. So, pull on your networking hazmat suit, enter the room, and know that you can make a difference in the lives of other people by smiling, introducing yourself, asking an open-ended question and listening.
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