How to Break Down Networking Barriers

You’ve just heard you have to attend the after-hours event, today.You focus on all the things you could be doing instead which bumps up your anxiety. At a networking event is the last place you want to be.

If this feeling continues, your attitude and behavior will show your discomfort, creating barriers to not only your good reputation and performance, but for the positive experience of those who mingle with you.

How do you break down networking barriers when you feel anxious about going?

Most networking “events” are without a program. They offer few chairs to get comfortable in, few tables to hide behind. The point is to stay standing and mingle. If you’re an introvert, your success of breaking down networking barriers rests with your ability to structure the experience, despite the comforts of the space. Follow 3 simple rules and your anxiety level will drastically drop.

Rule #1

Set some goals about your participation level. Otherwise, that’s what saps the introvert’s energy – the feeling we need to talk to everyone. If we know lots of people will be present, our desire for fleeing the scene amplifies, because the energy of the room is overstimulating and we don’t know where to begin.

I suggest introverts leave after they have had enjoyable conversation with 2-3 people. Maybe this means talking with 6 or more people overall. Maybe fewer. With a goal of 2-3 enjoyable or meaningful conversations, the introvert can realistically accomplish this and still leave in good time, well before their energy is depleted.

Having a goal like this encourages our bringing conversations to an end. Some introverts never want to venture away from the individual who walks up to them, and then they get stuck in an endless conversation and leave the event feeling it was  a waste.

With ready conversation-ending comments, we continue our structure of getting to that next conversation that leads us closer to our goal. “It was a pleasure getting to know you. I hope you enjoy the event!” Or, “If you have a business card on you, I’d like to follow up with you to continue this conversation.” Or, “I need to talk to a few more people before I leave, and I’ll let you do the same. It was good meeting you.”

Having goals around your level of participation helps you stay positive, stay active and stay in control of yourself.

Rule #2

Position yourself to meet who you want to meet.

Don’t waste time and energy. Instead, make the most of the event. Learn who is there. Find this out from the planners, or those at the sign-in desk, or from whoever invited you. Then, waste no time seeking out those who are likely prospects, referral sources and even friendly faces.

Remind yourself you have a goal to accomplish and get rewarded with leaving early when you complete it. If your likely connection is in the middle of the room, just go there. If you prefer to seek a friendly face first, hover along the edges of the event so you can meet someone more like you. No need to push the anxiety level by standing in the middle of the room and getting overstimulated. From the outside edges introverts can meet folks like themselves. The room edges also give you the chance to better see the room, finding those likely candidates for business. Give yourself the edge and the ability to take in the room, then go where you need to go.

Rule #3

Stay in touch with your network. Introverts operate best when there is meaning to what they do. Just as there is no reason to learn a skill that you’ll never use, there is no reason to meet someone if you don’t follow up with them and further the relationship.

Business happens from those who know, like and trust us. One meeting does not create this relationship. We need to stay in contact – email helps, but face-to-face works.

This means, follow up often with people already in your network. Learn how things are going for them. Share how things are going for you. Ask how you can help and be ready to share what type of help you need. You’ll learn who you want to stay in frequent contact with, and often it’s with people you enjoy. Basically, because of their positive, genuine energy. Let that shape how you come across as well.

Some people will fall into a yearly or every 6 months frequency. Some will fit into your quarterly connections. Some will be even more frequent.

Most introverts prefer 1 to 1 connections over attending events. Reach out to your network then for coffees or lunches or after-hours drinks. But we also need to attend events to keep us motivated to connect with people and ask for referrals. So as you connect with individuals, ask them where they network and what events are coming up.

Use these three rules and get networking. Break down your own anxiety barriers and while you’re at it, create an experience that leads others to you. Who knows, you may need to attend an event tonight.

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One Response to How to Break Down Networking Barriers
  1. […] early June of 2015 I wrote a post, How to Break Down Networking Barriers, and offered 3 tips for the networker who wants to drop their anxiety level. Check out these tips. […]

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