Overcoming Networking Anxiety

"Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen." -Brene Brown

When you hear the word “networking” what is your initial reaction? Are you excited and counting down the moments until you can meet someone new? Or are you filled with overwhelm, and dread? Networking can be more challenging for some than it is for others. However, we hope that doesn’t stand in your way of building valuable connections that can serve you both personally and professionally. To help, we want to offer some tips to overcome networking anxiety. 

Be prepared  

If possible, prepare in advance before an event. You might want to research some of the other attendees, practice your elevator pitch, or consider some topics of interest that you can rely on if you are feeling stuck or overwhelmed. Since anxiety often stems from fear of the unknown, you might wish to brainstorm some discussion topics ahead of time and include some thought-out questions. Ask a friend or colleague to attend with you. This way, you have someone familiar in the room if you need a friendly face for reassurance, or someone who can help open conversations with others.  

Set goals 

If you are worried about being overwhelmed during the event, create a few realistic goals for yourself to achieve. This might be how many people you want to meet, a specific person or people you’d like to interact with, or a certain number of business cards handed out to others.  

“Make your agenda as specific as possible,” advises Dr. Emma Levine, a psychologist based in New York. “This will help you to identify and problem-solve specific worries in advance.”

NBC News 

Having a clear vision, and roadmap will likely ease your anxiety and help the event go smoothly.  

Consider small groups or events  

For introverts, participating in small networking groups or events can be less intimidating. As previously mentioned, BNI is an excellent option for introverts as chapters are broken down into smaller groups and allow individuals the opportunity to get to know one another. You can also depend on your fellow members to refer connections, which means you don’t have to build your contact list all on your own. One to one meetings are also incredibly beneficial for introverts as they allow you the chance to sit down with another individual and get to know them on a personal level.  

It is also important to remember that you don’t need to attend every networking event. Be selective in your choices, and find ones that you are excited about, and that you know will be beneficial to your goals and priorities. Speak to people who are also attending, or have attended, to get an idea of what to expect to help you prepare ahead of time. 

Be realistic 

Try your best to not put pressure on yourself. Keep your goals in mind and stack on track during the event.  Relax.  Remember you are likely not the only person in the room who is feeling anxious, and once you begin speaking to people, you will start to feel more at ease. Whether it’s your first networking event, or you attend one every other week, the more you push yourself out of your comfort zone, the easier it will become. 

Networking is a skill that can be mastered with practice. So, don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and start the conversation. Be sure to embrace the opportunities that networking offers and be proud of yourself as you watch your confidence and connections grow. 

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