Socializing is a gift to some and a nightmare to others. For the shy types, just the thought of having to speak about yourself and what you do for a living for at least three hours straight is enough to drive your anxiety up the roof. Add that to the needed task of working your way around the room so you can shake hands and have a little chat with the movers and shakers of your industry, and you might just forget what it means to breathe. Such a daunting task requires preparation – but fret not dear anxious reader, we’ve got your back with these step-by-step tips:
Set goals and treat it like a game
Like any challenge, planning is key. What do you want to achieve in particular for this upcoming corporate event? Try to be quantitative in your goal so it will be measurable and less overwhelming. For example, make it your aim to speak with 5 new people in this event. Pretend you’re in your favorite game and you’re scoring points for every successful social encounter.
Dress for confidence
They say you ought to dress to impress, but it’s really more important to dress for confidence. Where’s the sense in wearing your highest heels or your fanciest coat if you won’t feel comfortable? At the end of the day, uneasiness is distracting, and it keeps you from being at the top of your game. Visualize your most confident self, know the value you give to the organization, and sail away to make this image a reality.
Remember, it’s not about you
While it’s important to affirm your strengths and contributions during your conversations, it’s even more important to make the person you are speaking with feel genuinely valued – and the fool proof way to make them like you without crossing over to unnecessary flattery, you might ask? Listen and react attentively to their stories and make them feel like the most important person in the room. Listening is an art, and fortunately for most shy folks, this is one of your gifts – so use it.
Have icebreakers in mind
It’s so easy to fall in to the trap of talking about the weather or mundanely discussing what you do at work – but to really stand out, sometimes it’s in the thoughtfulness behind your questions. You can have them thinking on their feet by asking what motivated them to come to the event, or you can play the relatable card and ask their opinion on current events or what they think the little questionable snacks at the buffet table are.
The best way to avoid mental block is to let loose and speak about your passions, allowing your natural charisma to shine through. The things that truly resonate with you are deeply embedded in your mind, so you just have to trust your gut and the words will naturally flow out.
Don’t overthink, especially when you think you said something wrong
You get better with experience, and so if you make some mistakes, remember that it’s only normal and everybody’s got to go through the embarrassing before they become masters. If it was a little slip up, forget about it, keep your poise, and regain the momentum by changing the topic or talking about it from a different perspective.
Give yourself a reward
You’ve been a brave one and you deserve a little treat! As a shy person, it felt like you were risking your soul out there, but in the end, it does payoff with the rewarding feeling that you stepped out of your comfort zone to do something that will help you grow as a person.
Evaluate how you can do better next time
When all has been said and done, chances are you’ll be going through this (gruelling) experience again. Think about what made you feel more confident, what made your new-found contacts reciprocate more warmly, and what you ought to avoid next time. There are always learnings in retrospect, after all. In no time, with these tips in mind, you’ll be the cool dude all the networking newbies will be looking up to!
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