4 Tips for More Comfortable and Confident Networking
Growing your professional network can seem like a daunting task. However, a little practice and a few supportive tips can help anyone become a better and more comfortable networker.
1. Like Everything, Networking Gets Easier with Practice
Build up your networking muscle slowly over time. The best way to prepare for networking at a big conference or event is to start small. Make reasonable goals for yourself each week (e.g. “talk to one person on my floor that I’ve never met,” or “attend a lecture and introduce myself to whomever sits next to me”), then gradually take on more ambitious networking challenges. The more often you practice, the more you’ll realize there’s little to fear about making connections.
2. Even the Stars Need to Network
Don’t talk yourself out of approaching people whose careers you admire just because you think they’re “out of your league.” Most successful professionals will happily engage with you, since they know from experience that fruitful connections can be made anywhere and anytime. If you want to connect with that genius visiting lecturer you revere, stick around after they’ve finished their presentation and introduce yourself.
3. A Little Preparation Goes a Long Way
Before you attend any conference or meeting, take a look at the agenda or program and pick out a few speakers or attendees you want to meet. Read their work and think of a specific question or two you’ll ask them if you happen to see them in a hallway or elevator. Having a question or comment in mind will relieve the pressure of finding a good starting point for conversation, and it will also show your future connection that you know and appreciate their work.
4. Bring Something to the Table
One way to feel more confident while networking is to end any conversation with an offer of future assistance. Look for opportunities to help further your connection’s work (anything from sharing a data set to sending them a link to an article or tool they might benefit from), provide them with your contact information, and let them know you’d be happy to collaborate in the future. Feel confident that you have something to offer anyone you meet.