I get a lot of comments at parties and even a few emails of people saying/asking 1) “Cass, you are NOT a wallflower; you are much too social!” and 2) “But, I AM a wallflower. How can I network better?”
Well first off, I am very much a wallflower. My stomach does somersaults when I walk into a crowded room. I have to sit and prep myself all day before I can even consider going to a large meet-up or networking event. And after just a few hours of socializing, I am burned out and need to call it quits. That’s a wallflower.
But I learned to hide it, for those few hours I’m at the show. I learned a few tricks to help myself get better at meeting people at events and feel more comfortable while I’m there. Now these are not fool-proof. I definitely still walk into events and turn around and walk right out, not feeling the vibe or the energy to do it. But they definitely help me. Maybe they will you, too.
5 Tips To Help You Network
1) Bring a friend who is out going, and follow them around. They’ll handle the tough part – entering conversations – and then loop you in. Just talk with them about this before and make sure they know you would like help. I see people at events follow friends in, but then still hang out on sofas or in corners along the walls, since their friend just didn’t know they wanted help.
2) Don’t be afraid to just jump in. If you see a pretty loose and open circle (two people talking close together is clearly a private talk, DON’T enter it), just hop into the side, listen a bit, and speak up with an opinion or question. Do NOT start talks with your name and a leading question that gets you to talk more about yourself: “I’m Bob; I work in CRM. Do you need more customers?” People smell this and will disengage. Try something like “How do you know about this event?” ” What do you want to get out of it?” ” What are you working on right now?”
3) Listen more than you talk at the first few events you go to; people will respect that and make an effort get to know you, too. Offer polite but informed opinions on what others say, and they’ll be more likely to invite you back. That said, do not just drift on the side of the conversation only listening – this is creepy.
4) Seek out people you know. As you get to know more people, find them in crowded rooms at future events. Say hi and ask how they are, remind them where you met them, they’ll usually then introduce you to whoever they are talking with and now you know even MORE people.
5) Do NOT go to events with the goal being “To Network” or something pitch-y like that. Go to meet neat people and have a good time. I go to events to see people I know in the industry and reconnect; if I leave with a few new business cards from others, its just a nice bonus. Leave a friendly impression and people will think about you as a nice business connection in the future. Leave a business-like impression and they won’t even consider you friendly in the future.