Networking events can be very daunting experiences, especially if you're more introverted than outspoken.
The very idea of mingling with others in your industry whom you don't necessarily know is enough to make you sweat and your hands to tremble. And if you don't have anyone there you already know, then you're essentially going into foreign territory. Such events can make even the best of us feel uneasy or stressed.
While there's no definite way of removing stress from a situation that actually causes you stress, there are certain things you can do to at least reduce discomfort. In today's article, I'll be listing five tricks you can use to make networking less stressful and more manageable.
1. Mentally prepare
Naturally, one of the first things you can do to cope better during a networking event is to mentally prepare yourself. Now, what's important to remember is that mental preparation isn't going to outright kill the nerves. In fact, you'll probably still feel very nervous when it comes to walking in that door and seeing a room full of your peers. But what mentally preparing yourself does do is it allows you to go in with a more positive or confident mindset.
Different people have different ways of preparing themselves. Some may listen to music, some may look in the mirror and make a life-affirming statement over and over again. What is worth noting is the action of saying a statement on over and over helps change the way you think. The more you repeat a statement and focus on what it means, the more your mind will start to believe it.
Some people use this technique to reduce stress in day-to-day life, but it can also be used in preparation for specific events or tasks that needs to be performed. It's an actual psychological method that helps individuals retrain their thoughts and attitudes towards life. Just remember to have realistic expectations. Regardless, mental preparation is better than no preparation.
2. Have perspective
Situations that create stress can cause us to over-exaggerate potential consequences that could occur if we make mistakes. This is known as catastrophising, a mental process that is recognised in psychology. With networking events, such a thought process may cause certain individuals to grow anxious over all the possible pitfalls, with thoughts such as, "What if I have nothing of value to say and that ruins my business?"
As you can see, such a thought is negative and has an extreme imagined catastrophic consequence. Why would hitting a wall in a conversation cause your entire business to fail and/or be irreparably damaged? That's why perspective is essential.
If you find you have several thoughts that make a networking event appear more daunting and horrific than it actually is, then you should write down these thoughts. Analyse each thought and spend some time really assessing if these thoughts are rational or, on an objective basis, ever likely to come true. Chances are you'll find most of your thoughts are either hyperbolic in nature or completely unfounded.
Another factor to remember is that when at networking events, the pressure isn't all on you. It's not your job to keep a conversation going; it's a shared responsibility between you and whoever else you're talking to. If they simply aren't trying to keep the conversation going, then you owe nothing to them. Simply thank them for their time and move on.
3. Ask questions
One of the easiest ways to keep a conversation going at a networking event is to ask questions. Yes, this is obvious, but most people probably don't bother considering what questions to ask. It may seem a little odd to have questions prepared beforehand, but it can spare you a lot of stress when you're actually caught up in a conversation.
As these are networking events, professional questions naturally make sense. So ask them how they got into their line of work, ask them for their opinion or professional advice on something you're currently working on, and so on. And with each question you ask, pay close attention to their answers. It's likely you'll find that there will be more questions you can ask from the answers they provide you. And of course, answer their questions.
4. Have topics of discussion on hand
Along with having a few questions on mind beforehand, also take the time to put together a few topics of discussion. This is another way of breaking the ice and keeping a conversation going without having to struggle for something to discuss on the spot. The more prepared you are, the less stress you'll have to deal with at the event itself.
The topics you discuss basically depends on the industry you're involved in. Make sure the topics are relevant. There's no point wanting to discuss digital marketing if you're involved in the insurance industry unless the conversation somehow naturally moves into that direction. These topics will allow conversations to flow more naturally and with greater ease for both you and those you're talking to.
If discussion happens to go on a tangent into more casual territory, then that's a good thing. It's a sign that you're getting along and are finding common ground.
5. Don't forget to breathe
One of the best ways of dealing with stress is to breathe. Often stress leads to anxiety and causes a host of physiological responses such as faster, shorter breathing and an increased heart rate. The simple process of actively slowing down your breathing helps reduce anxiety and slow downs the physiological responses to stress and anxiety. Once you start breathing slowly, your heart rate will slow back down as well, allowing stress to minimise. If you feel you're overwhelmed and may need to slow down your breathing, politely excuse yourself and take a moment before returning.
Margin Media is an inbound marketing company based in Brisbane. We offer a range of digital marketing solutions to help your business increase its website traffic, qualified leads and customer base. To find out more about our services, give us a call on 1300 798 848 or visit our contact page.