Networking for the shy: A guide

Networking for the shy: A guide

Posted By admin |16 Jun 2011
Networking for the shy: A guide

Are you new to networking? Or does the thought of networking with a room full of strangers instantly make you panic? JCI offers a great introduction to the art of networking and will help you gain confidence and new business contacts. So, how do you go about networking if the very thought of it makes you shudder?

Jo Evans, JCI Cambridge

In this blog post Jo Evans from Emerald Frog Marketing (and JCI Cambridge Committee member) gives a few tips on networking for the shy:

"It's not what you know, it's WHO you know". Otherwise known as "networking". It's a very effective form of marketing your business.

Now, networking might come naturally to you, but according to the Shyness Research Institute (yes, really!) at Indiana University, approximately 40% of people describe themselves as shy. This can mean that the prospect of "networking" is one that brings many business owners out in a cold sweat.

So how do you master the art of the "schmooz" and maximise your chances of seizing an opportunity through networking?

Here are our top tips for the shy:

1. Start close to home. If you are shy, a bit of a hermit even, there are probably friends and family that you have not caught up with for a while. Dust off your address book, go through the numbers in your phone and make contact to see how they are. Drop a friend an email, arrange to go out for a drink or invite them round for a cup of coffee and practise your small talk. Practising socialising with people with whom you have lost contact to warm up your skills for when you have to meet strangers.

2. Get a gregarious friend. I used to have a friend called Lara who was a brilliant networker. At parties, whether they were hers or not, she would manage to get everyone in the room talking with each other. She would ask lots of questions then, at a relevant point in the conversation, introduce another person in the room- then discreetly slip away when the new connection was firmly established and moved onto the next wall flower. A Lara is a great person to know. She takes away your nerves and does the introducing for you. Obviously you can't drag your Lara everywhere, but watch how they do it and learn their skills.

3. Ask questions and listen. Talk to your new contact by asking them questions about what they do. Most people love talking about themselves and this keeps the heat off you! Ask lots of "open questions" that begin with a who, how, when, where or why. A question that results in a yes/no answer will be as painful as pulling teeth. If you are at an event ask others what they thought of the speaker/programme/show.

4. Watch your body language. Smile, don't slouch, make eye contact with people, don't fold your arms or talk too fast. If you don't know what to do with your hands carry a pen!

5. Don't scoff all the buffet. It may be tempting at an event to simply avoid people and make a beeline for the buffet. While everyone else is networking you have troughed your way through four platefuls of sausage rolls instead. Not a good start.

6. Be realistic. Talking with two or three people in a room is better than not talking with anyone at all.

7. Watch out for self effacing comments. Don't put yourself down/belittle your job or achievements/apologise all the time.

8. Be a greeter. If your company is holding an event and you have been drafted in to help, offer to be the person on the front desk. Hand out the name badges, say hello to people, tell them where the bar is. You will get to know who everyone is and soon people will approach you for a chat. Or join the JCI Committee and get stuck in. We'll happily give you a role to help you engage with others!

9. Go online. Networking doesn't always mean face-to-face (although this is the most effective way). Get networking via Facebook and LinkedIn. Join online groups and discussions to get your name about.

10. Get over your fear of rejection. You won't be interesting to all people, nor will your product or service be of use to all you meet, so don't worry if the conversation doesn't go anywhere or you never hear from your new contact again. Do drop them an email to follow up after the meeting, but don't take it personally if they don't respond! The beauty of networking is that your business card may get passed to a contact of a contact, so you never know what opportunities are open to you further down the line!

So take a deep breath, relax and enjoy!