Networking can play a valuable part in running your business. Currently, in Edinburgh, you could probably have a fulltime job just going to networking events. They vary in format, structure and size, but they all have one thing in common – it can fill you with dread.
Now, I should say that if you’re like me and enjoy networking then you probably don’t need to read on. But, if just the thought of booking your next networking event brings you out in sweaty panic then let me explain what’s happening in your brain to create this anxiety, and what you can do about it to start networking like a boss!
Remember: It’s a normal survival response
Your primitive mind can feel that you’re getting anxious about something. It can sense danger ahead so it wants to step in and look after you. It wants to panic by running away or hiding. The adrenaline rush makes you sweat and feel breathless. Now if you’d seen a polar bear this would be a perfectly rational survival response. However, using your intelligent mind you know that a networking event is not a life or death situation (normally!). Rationalise the situation to calm the primitive mind down and focus on reality to encourage your intelligent mind to take over.
Here are some tips to help you.
The less you know about the event the more unsure you will be and this is where your mind will fill in the details of everything that could go wrong, consequently increasing your anxiety.
Make a good note of the exact location, time and format of the event. You may even want to pass by the location beforehand to see where you need to be. Work out your transport options and how long it will take you to get there. Get there early if you can, it’s so much easier to walk into a quieter room than a room full of people already making connections.
2. Have a clear intention
The purpose of networking is not to go around and tell everyone about your business, it’s about making connections
Have a clear idea of why you’re going. Naturally, you want to go to talk about your business so make sure you can communicate this clearly. But also, be prepared to talk to others about theirs. And not just their business but their interests or where they’ve travelled from. Knowing why you’re going will reduce your anxiety and give you a sense of purpose. I go with the intention to make a few new friends and maybe catch up with people I know already.
3. Be realistic
You’re not going to land that £10,000 deal there and then at the event. It takes time to build relationships and get to a stage where you can talk business. This event is just the starting point. You’ll find if you think this way it will reduce your anxiety and help you to relax.
4. Take the pressure off
Similar to the above, just don’t put pressure on yourself. When you’re at a networking event and you’re feeling anxious, keep in mind that this is just ONE networking event of many that are out there. Don’t start to overthink it. Let your mind be creative and consider your options. If you find you don’t like its format or it’s not really in line with your business then at least you tried it. There will be many others to try too. Find what works for you.
5. Everyone feels the same as you
The mind hates you standing out from the crowd – it wants you to join in and become part of ‘the tribe.’ It may look like everyone else is confident and happy but you’d be surprised. Everyone is feeling exactly the same way as you, they’re just relieved that they’ve found someone to talk to and are ‘fitting in.’
People are there to talk so even if you feel like you need to stand at the edge of the room and catch your breath, you’ll probably find someone else doing the exact same thing – and you’ve got a conversation starter right there!
Honestly, I’ve made some great friends and connections at networking events. Once you’ve been to a few you’ll start to see some familiar faces and that will help reduce your anxiety too.
But first, you’ve got to get out there and do it.
Gin Lalli firstname.lastname@example.org
I’m a Solution Focused Therapist based in Edinburgh specialising in anxiety, stress, depression and sleep. I go to a lot of networking events so feel free to come and say hello if you see me at your next one and let me know if these tips have helped you.