How To Become A Better Networker Part 2: Getting over Connection Anxiety

Not everyone is born an amazing networker. For example, you may be a shy person but that doesn’t mean that you can’t practise to become someone more outgoing.

Networking can be scary and overwhelming at first. Practise makes perfect, which means practise will always start imperfect. We all have areas that we can improve on when it comes to networking and it’s important to push ourselves to get to a comfortable place.

Prepare the Introduction

The introduction is the first step in breaking the ice when making a new connection. Keep in mind that it’s not about who you know, but who knows you! When that person walks away after your initial conversation, how will they remember you and for what? Try making your name memorable. For example, I refer to myself as Tiffany like Tiffany & Co. Strike a balance between cheesy and memorable that is relevant to your connection or career. Coming from a background in fashion, the connections I make know Tiffany & Co. as a brand.

Connecting any time you can

By practising initiating conversations in your everyday life, it will make networking events and meeting industry professionals easier. If you’re in school, I suggest signing up to be a school tour guide. This will give you the opportunity to practise speaking in front of smaller and larger crowds. Engage with your tour members by asking them what they want to study, and tailor the tour to buildings relevant to them. This will also help you figure out how to add value to someone.

Examples of when to connect:

  • Using transit (bus, subway, train)
  • Riding in an elevator
  • Waiting in line
  • You’re early
  • You stay late

Initiating the conversation

Smile and Say Hello:
When you meet someone smile and say hello. It may seem daunting to approach a stranger at first so ease the tension with a smile. Not everyone will return your smile, but you might be missing out on a great connection if you never try.

Bring Treats:
Everyone loves a treat and sharing food helps to break the tension. Be mindful of allergens and intolerance to nuts, dairy, and gluten when offering a treat.

Never eat lunch alone:
Make it a point to invite others to lunch forming a more meaningful connection

Find a wing person:
If you have a friend who is already outgoing, hanging out with them will help you easily jump into conversations that they have already initiated

Carry on the conversation

Ask “you-centric” questions like, “I really like your necklace, where did you get it?”. Follow up with a question that invites them to tell you more about the necklace. You want to go for the emotions to form a meaningful connection between the two of you. This will help make you memorable after the conversation is over.

Make an effort to try to connect with at least someone new every week, then every other day, then every day. This will help you get over your “connection-anxiety”.

Once you’re done practising and are ready to start networking, head over to How To Become a Better Networker Part 3: So You’re Ready to Network?

Contributed by Tiffany Kwong

If you missed Part 1: go here