Written by Samantha Risen, an AmeriCorps VISTA serving at World Affairs Council of Kentucky and Southern Indiana
I’m convinced there are only a small handful of people on planet earth that actually like to network. I imagine they look a bit like Patrick Bateman from American Psycho and they use “networking guru” in their tinder bios. I am not a fan of networking. I like talking to people, sure. But put me in a room of professionals with the singular goal of chit chatting and elevator pitching and business card swapping and I get slightly sick to my stomach and my brain inexplicably wants to chat about the best way to reboot Sabrina the Teenage Witch. However, I’ve found that networking has been key in making connections, getting funded, getting the job, etc. So what’s a girl to do?
I’ve found some simple ways to calm down and actually enjoy myself:
Figure out why you’re there
Have a strategy for what you want to get out of the event overall. What’s your goal? Why are you attending? What do you want to learn? Who do you want to connect with? Who should you invite? What do you want people to know about you and what you do?
“Networking is not about calling people you know. It’s about helping where you provide value. And that requires, before anything else, understanding who you are, what you need to learn, the value you can deliver, and when you need help to deliver that value.”–Scot Cohen
It can feel silly, but practice chit chatting (either with yourself or friends/colleagues). Nail down your introduction and have a few interesting tidbits or questions to keep up your sleeve when conversation is at a lull. “Have you seen XYZ’s latest article/video? What’s your take on XYZ subject?”
You will run out of steam if you feel like you have to talk about you, you, you. Instead, ask lots of questions about the people you are talking to. Most people love to talk about themselves and share their opinion. “Where are you from? What do you do? How do you like it there? What do you think will be the biggest influence in the industry next year?
Practice your 30 second elevator pitch(who you are, what you do, where you do it) until it sounds natural and you feel confident when giving it. Remember to smile!
Put Down Your Phone
It’s very tempting to just stand to the side and “compose emails” at a networking event just so that you don’t have to put yourself out there. Instead, take a few breaths and go find someone to talk to (maybe find someone that looks a little lost too!) If you bring a friend to a networking event, make sure you mingle and don’t spend the entire time chatting about the new episodes of Black Mirror (learned that lesson through experience).
The S.T.O.P Method
According to executive coach Chris Charyk, this is the ultimate mental trick to tackle any stressful situation. It goes like this:
Stop what you’re doing and focus on your thoughts.
Take a few deep breaths.
Observe what’s going on in your body, emotions, and mind, and why you’re feeling them.
Proceed with an intention to incorporate what you observed in your actions.
The importance of this technique is to slow down and be deliberate not just in the things you do, but the feelings you let take over. It reminds you that you have the power to banish your own fears, doubts, and nerves in even the most pressure-cooker situations.
Finally, try to remember that most people are slightly nervous at these types of events. If you tell yourself that you’re going to blow it, your confidence won’t come across. Instead, take deep breaths, do a power stance, and take the plunge!
Networking Events around Louisville
- Youth Professionals Association of Louisville (YPAL)
- Metro United Way’s LINC
- Junior League
- Urban League
- Leadership Louisville
- Center for Nonprofit Excellence
- Check out events on Eventbrite/Do502/City Concierge Louisville
- Follow all your favorite companies on social media/sign up for their newsletters — you never know when they might post an event
PS- Networking doesn’t have to just take place at a “branded networking event”. It can be in the grocery line, or at a music festival, or while you’re volunteering somewhere. If you’ve got your elevator pitch, a smile, and you’re genuinely invested in the conversation–congrats! You’re networking!