Picture this. You walk into a dark, blearily-lit conference room fitted with rusty blue chairs. A sign reads “Freelancer’s Networking Event – Where Everyone Knows Each Other Except You.” People huddle in groups, eyeing you up as you enter. Hushed whispers and frosty stares greet you. In the distance, screams.
FYI? Networking events are *nothing* like this.
In fact, sometimes, they can actually be fun. Once you step out of the shadows glued to your phone, they can be an ideal place to meet new business contacts, and tbh, make new friends. So, how to do it?
Firstly, the main thing to remember is that *everyone is in the same boat*. Even the most confident person in the universe’s palms would sweat upon walking into a room full of people they haven’t met. And if they tell you otherwise, they’re lying.
Before you go, think of some conversation starters that you feel confident talking about. I know this sounds sexist, but complimenting a woman on her bag or shoes is a surefire way to get off on the right foot (ahem) and start a conversation. Even if you just natter about the Zara sales for ten minutes; you’ve done it. You’ve made an acquaintance. After every interaction like this, your confidence will grow and grow, until networking feels natural.
Talk The Talk
Admittedly, the first few conversations you initiate will feel slightly awkward and forced, as you get to know what works and what doesn’t. But after a while, you will begin to feel comfortable chatting to strangers, and you’ll wonder why on earth you ever felt the need to read an article titled “how to network like a pro” because you ARE a networking pro.
If you see someone standing by themselves, you can guarantee that they are feeling as nervous as you, and are likely to be imagining the carpeted floor making turning into a vacuum and swallowing them whole. Probably. So go up to them! Even if your first line is, “God, these events are a bit scary aren’t they! Ha!” they will appreciate it and be grateful for your confidence. Remember, unlike in a bar or any other social situation, guests at these events have attended with the intention of meeting people just like you, so don’t feel weird making a forced conversation to get things moving.
The Golden Rule
And lastly, try not to get drunk. Ugh, I know, sorry. Having a few glasses of wine may be the social lubricant you need to make conversations flow better, but this isn’t a nightclub. It’s still business, and you are representing your own brand. Professionalism is key. Ok, rant over.
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