Take small bites. If the thought of walking into a room full of people is overwhelming, try to network in a more comfortable atmosphere. Discuss your skills and accomplishments with friends, family, and members of your community. Ask if they can connect you to others who can help you acquire the information you need.
Buddy with someone who is comfortable networking. Find a partner who is more outgoing than you. Invite him to a networking event and follow his lead, but don’t cling to him all evening. When you’re ready, branch out on your own and make plans to “check in” periodically throughout the event. At the end of the event share information about the contacts you met with your buddy to maximize the value of the event.
Practice your pitch. You can improve your comfort level with networking dramatically by practicing ahead of time. Think through a brief statement about yourself that communicates your unique skills and value added. Don’t talk about the tasks and don’t just give your name, rank, and serial number. Be bold and discuss how you solve your clients’ problems.
Read books and articles on networking. Arm yourself with the latest information on the topic. Highlight concepts, themes, and scripts that can help you prepare and be comfortable with your networking skills.
Take a public speaking class. Join a group that allows you to practice your public speaking skills in a supportive, non-threatening environment. Groups such as Toastmasters International offer a variety of meetings and venues to practice these skills. You can find clubs at www.toastmasters.org.
Five Tips for Reluctant Networkers
by Granted Contributor