For some, the idea of mulling around in a room full of strangers and trying to sell themselves is like a nightmare come true.

It’s a daunting prospect having to introduce yourself and make a great first impression. At some events, you may even be asked to give a short talk about your specialism.

But it doesn’t have to be scary. In fact, it can be quite the opposite once you find your stride; you may even enjoy it!

Here’s our 5 tips for getting over your networking fears and enjoying the process:

  1. Choose a Venue That You Like

One of the first things to consider when choosing a networking event is where it is held. By choosing a venue that you like and feel comfortable in, you will instantly feel more at ease when you arrive.

For example, if you aren’t confident speaking to large crowds, then chose a networking event held in a small cafe or meeting room where large numbers aren’t expected.

  1. Do Your Homework

If the networking event you are attending has a particular speaker lined up then do some research on them. Prepare some questions that you might have for them and also brush up on exactly what they do for when you get a chance to chat with them, so you don’t sound ignorant.

It’s also a good idea to do some background research on any companies/representatives of organisations attending the event. If you are looking to make useful contacts and get a foot in the door, it looks good if you already know your stuff on them.

  1. Minimise Small Talk

Small talk can take up a lot of the time spent at the event and really has no value. If you want to make quick and meaningful connections, minimise your small talk and get straight to the point with some prepared questions and statements.

A great way to quickly open a conversation is to make a brief comment about the event or the speaker you just heard. This can then lead directly into discussing each other’s purpose for attending and what kind of thing you do. Before you know it you will be exchanging business cards and moving on to the next contact!

  1. Act Interested

One of the common mistakes people make in networking is to assume the main goal is to get across as much about themselves as possible. Wrong. If you want to peak the interest of a contact, you should show an interest in them.

When someone appears to take a genuine interest in what you are talking about, you instantly warm to them and want to find out more about them. So appearing interested will make you more interesting!

  1. Practice

Like anything, the more you do it the more confident you become with it. If you don’t feel confident talking to strangers, start trying to push yourself to talk to more people during your day.

Chat to the server on your lunch, make small talk with someone at the bus stop, or get a friend to role play a networking scenario with you.

And most importantly, get out there. The sooner you start attending networking events, the sooner you will get used to them and your confidence will grow!