As an introvert, I get shy at networking events. Occasionally, I’ll look at my phone simply to avoid eye contact with people, or I’ll walk to the bar just so I don’t stand in one place.
If I didn’t have to go to these events, I wouldn’t. But it is part of my job—and likely yours too, especially if you want to move your career forward. If you’re an introvert like me, you can overcome this shyness. Here are three of my favorite tips to do this.
1. Talk To Strangers
As the saying goes, “practice makes perfect.” And you can easily practice networking by talking to strangers. You don’t have to have a full-on conversation with them, but when am I out in public, I greet people with a smile, hello, and a “how are you today” or “crazy weather today.”
I also ask strangers simple questions, such as, “Do you have the time?” or “Do you know where I can locate the nearest ___?” Initiating these small conversations has increased my comfort level with going up and talking to strangers at networking events.
2. Practice Breathing Techniques
One thing I’ve learned about attending networking events is that I must take deep breathes before walking in. If I don’t, I will stutter my words or get a weak voice.
As I walk to the event or site inside my car beforehand, I take deep breathes to calm my nerves and get the air out of my system. That way, I don’t freeze or stutter. Take deep breathes before you walk into the event. If you forget, visit the bathroom and calm yourself there.
3. Keep Conversations Short
If you’re an introvert, it is tempting to stick in one conversation—or stick by your coworkers’ sides, if they’re with you. But at a career preparation conference I attended, the presenter told us not to talk to just one person in the room because you lose focus on the intent of networking.
To avoid doing this, remember that networking means you get to keep conversations short and then move on. All you need to do to be successful is exchange: hellos, names, what you do, how you found out about the event, how you can be of service, and business cards. That’s it!
Don’t waste the time you have at a networking event—or any money you spent to attend it—by being shy. Practice, take deep breaths, and keep the conversation short, and you’ll do great.