Does the idea of attending a networking event make you feel uncomfortable? You’re not alone.
In fact, some people would prefer a trip to the dentist rather than going to a networking event and I used to be one of those people.
I’ve now learned to overcome my objections by reframing what networking really is all about. Now I’ve learned to love networking and I frequently share my passion with others in talks and workshops.
In this article I’ll share the 5 most common reasons people have shared with me to explain why they object to networking and my tips to help you overcome those objections.
Objection #1 – I’m an introvert
If you’re an introvert, or a naturally shy person, networking events can be scary. You may feel awkward and it can appear that everyone else knows other people and you don’t know anyone. You can sometimes find yourself standing all by yourself at the edge of the room wishing the ground would open up and swallow you or you may even turn right around and leave before the event even starts.
How to overcome this objection: Remind yourself that vast majority of people feel at least a little uncomfortable with networking and that includes the extroverts. Plan ahead and have some conversation starters ready or simply smile and ask “May I join you” to an individual or a group of people you’d like to talk to. Even better, find someone who’s all alone and looking lost, smile and ask if you can join them. They’ll be really grateful that you reached out and they could be a great connection for you.
Objection #2 – It’s a waste of my time
I used to think there were many more important things for me to be doing than networking and sometimes I was just too tired to consider going to a networking event at the end of the workday. If you haven’t thought strategically about where you go to network, some events can feel like a waste of time, although personally I now find that I take something of value away from every interaction with another person. If you go with the mindset that you really don’t want to be there and there is nothing of value for you, this is exactly what you will experience.
How to overcome this objection: Develop a personal networking strategy. Get clear on the type of people you want to meet, find out where they go and attend those events. Plan ahead and bring some conversation starters and be ready to answer the question “So what do you do?” succinctly and in a way that will encourage people to want to learn more about you.
Objection #3 – I’ll need to sell myself to others
Many people believe that networking is all about impressing others with their accomplishments or knowledge and when they compare themselves with others they sometimes feel inferior. Now I have a question for you, “Do you enjoy listening to someone listing off all their achievements or name-dropping in order to impress you?” Of course not – it’s the quickest way to turn people off.
How to overcome this objection: Stop worrying about impressing others and never waste time and energy comparing yourself to others. We are each unique individuals and we bring our own set of skills, experience and passion to this world. Go to each event with a curious mind and focus on learning from others rather than talking about yourself and impressing them with your accomplishments. Be genuinely curious and listen and respond to what others are saying – everyone enjoys talking to an active listener and you can learn from other people. It’s also important to have prepared a succinct answer this invitation “So tell me a little about yourself”, which you’ll be sure to be asked after you’ve been such an attentive listener.
Objection #4 – I’ll need to put on an act
Some people feel the need to pretend to be someone they’re not to succeed at networking. Can you tell when someone is putting on an act? You can sense that they’re being very careful about what they say and not really being themselves. They’re also generally not actively listening and engaging with you, they’re thinking about the next thing they want to tell you. The conversation doesn’t flow naturally and they seem very conscious of how they sound and what they’re saying, You do not want to be that person or spend time with those people.
What you can do instead: Get comfortable with just being yourself. Take time to get into a positive mindset before the event. Remind yourself that there are many possibilities for you to make good connections, take a couple of deep breaths and smile as you enter the room. You’re not supposed to make great connections with everyone you meet. We’re all different and with some of the people you meet, you’ll know instantly that you feel comfortable with them and with some others you won’t and that’s OK.
Objection #5 – I’ll get stuck with someone I’m not interested in talking to
It’s true that sometimes you’ll meet a very unsophisticated networker who thinks they have permission to monopolize you and try to sell you on whatever product, service or other agenda they may be pushing. Or they’re one of those people who are clearly putting on an act and not being authentic. While this happens rarely, it can be challenging and it’s best to have a strategy to extricate yourself from the conversation if that happens.
What you can do instead: Be prepared with an exit line if you find yourself in this situation. You could simply say “It’s been interesting talking to you however, I feel I may be monopolizing you and we probably both should make an effort to meet some other people”. It’s polite and yet it makes the point and allows you to extricate yourself from the conversation and move on.
Learning to network effectively and authentically can enhance both your personal and professional life. It helps to build your confidence and your knowledge base and can sometimes lead to life long friendships or business relationships.