Stop feeling awkward, nervous, and lonely at networking events

Choose a few events and activities where you will spend your networking energy wisely. Choose the right activities, where you will find the people who share a common vision, and want to accomplish similar goals as you.

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?

Have a short blurb ready that describes what you’re up to right now when people ask, “What do you do?” It sounds silly, but just stating a job title can kill a conversation quicker than it started. Have those visions, goals, etc. lined out and ready to come off your tongue.

If you have trouble starting conversations, create some high-quality conversation starters by researching additional related topics.

Create a short list of key people you want to meet at the event. Be proactive and invite some of these people, if you think they won’t be there. Or reach out on social media and express interest in meeting them at the event!

You will run out of steam if you feel like all you have to talk about is you. And, you will come off as purely self-interested. Instead, ask questions about the people you are interacting. Most people love to talk about themselves and share their opinion.

Going in with a plan makes networking events less painful.

“Like most professionals, I thought the best way to grow my business was to network. And the primary way to do that was to attend networking events… I did have the reasonable expectation, I thought, that I was going to meet and connect with other professionals in a meaningful way and, eventually, welcome some amazing new clients to my practice. Unfortunately, this was an expectation that rarely realized itself.” - Derek Coburn, "Networking is Not Working."

Some people believe that building your network is always a good investment, even if there is no visible opportunity. They meet as many people as possible and collect a bushel of business cards. Chanting "You never know when good things will happen, and you never know when someone might be able to help you later."

Serendipity can be pretty amazing.

But still, most chance encounters don't turn into a material benefit for business. And, attending these events without a goal or a plan isn’t the best use of your time.

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What is the alternative to expand your network?

Just like in dating, focus on what you truly love to do, and that will enable you to meet others who share the same interests and passions. Skip the traditional events and meet people through more meaningful activities.

“Your passions and the events you build around them will create deeper levels of intimacy. Pay attention to matching the event to the particular relationship you’re trying to build.” - Keith Ferrazzi, "Never Eat Alone: And other Secretes to Success, One Relationship at a Time."

“Potent networks are not forged through casual interactions but through relatively high-stakes activities that connect you with diverse others” - Brian Uzzi, Professor of Leadership and Organizational Change at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management.

Networking is useful if you make it a positive activity, not about shallow interactions, collecting business cards, or in the “what’s in it for me” mindset. Deliver value and help others, with no expectation of anything in return.

Be a connector who helps good people connect with other amazing people for their mutual benefit. Don’t hide behind social media. Liking and commenting on posts isn’t connecting and networking. Meet people face to face as much as possible.

“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.” - Keith Ferraazzi.

Networking can be useful if you attend — or even create — the right events, create an intentional and strategic plan for the event, structure the environment to play to your strengths, meet and invite the right people, and have intelligent conversations.


A plan for your next networking event

  • Choose a few events and activities where you will spend your networking energy wisely. Choose the right activities, where you will find the people who share a common vision, and want to accomplish similar goals as you.

  • 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?

  • Have a short blurb ready that describes what you’re up to right now when people ask, “What do you do?” It sounds silly, but just stating a job title can kill a conversation quicker than it started. Have those visions, goals, etc. lined out and ready to come off your tongue.

  • If you have trouble starting conversations, create some high-quality conversation starters by researching additional related topics.

  • Create a short list of key people you want to meet at the event. Be proactive and invite some of these people, if you think they won’t be there. Or reach out on social media and express interest in meeting them at the event!

  • You will run out of steam if you feel like all you have to talk about is you. And, you will come off as purely self-interested. Instead, ask questions about the people you are interacting. Most people love to talk about themselves and share their opinion.