Dear Aunty B,
Every business publication I read (including this one) always encourages entrepreneurs to network to grow their business. But I have always been shy around new people and networking events full of unfamiliar faces genuinely makes me anxious. I don’t know how to just approach someone and start talking, let alone know what to say once I am there.
Are some people just better in these situations than others? Are there any tips you can give to help make me a better networker?
As you know I’m somewhat of a social butterfly so I have never found networking events anything but a whole lot of fun. It helps that they often involve alcohol! Meeting someone who can help me in my business is just an added bonus.
But I do understand not every business owner shares my confidence. And there are ways you can train yourself to become a better networker.
Over at Harvard Business Review, author and professional speaker Dorie Clark has some great tips for reluctant networkers. Like you, making small talk with a bunch of strangers doesn’t come easily to Clark but she has managed to find a way through.
While you might not be able to do as Clark does and invite people to hear you talk at events, you can follow her other steps of bringing a friend with you to events and preparing a few opening lines that can kick start a conversation.
Do you have an employee or colleague who might want to come to the next event with you? If it relates to your business or the industry you work it, chances are they will also be getting something out of it. And before you get there, have two or three questions prepared to ask someone. I particularly like Clark’s suggestion of asking someone about the coolest thing they are currently working on. Not only does it get them talking, but hopefully they will return the favour and give you an opportunity to tell them how great your business is too.