How to network without feeling awkward
Let me tell you about Jen.
Jen can get in an elevator with someone on the first floor and be firm friends with them by the 10th. She glides through dinner parties with ease and has even been paid to attend events to make sure everyone feels included and is having a good time.
She’s a natural people person, and seems to attract things into her life; fast friendships, opportunities, an extensive network of people who want to be around her.
Aptly, Jen’s the Senior Manager of Stakeholder Engagement at Enthuse Marketing and is the perfect person to offer advice on how to get over those common networking niggles without feeling awkward.
Some people avoid networking because it feels fake or contrived. How do you suggest they reframe this idea, and how do you get past the niceties to make a real connection?
No matter how many times I attend networking events, it always feels contrived. You just have to accept that it is. But people are there because they want to build a network, so you’re all in the same boat. The only way to make a connection is to be genuinely interested in what the other person is saying and sometimes that can be difficult because you don’t always meet interesting people.
It’s well known that good networkers are naturally curious people who show interest in others. Do you think that’s a skill you can teach yourself if you don’t have it?
I don’t look at being curious as a skill; it’s part of your personality. I think that you can get better at it by coming up with 5-6 questions that you can use over and over to engage with others and get the ball rolling.
Do you do anything to prepare before you go to an event?
No, but a positive attitude is essential. Networking events are like opening a present, and you never know what’s inside. Most of the time, you will find a pleasant surprise.
Do you ever have days where you don’t feel like meeting new people?
Everyone has off days but a lot of the time now I’ll be going out to meet amazing women entrepreneurs to bring into our work with The Enthuse Foundation, so it’s very motivating and most of the time it’s a real joy.
How do you manage it when there’s one person you’d love to get the attention of in the room, but they’re constantly surrounded by people?
I walk right up to the group, listen to their conversation and wait for a pause to introduce myself politely.
Is there a silver bullet that you use for when the conversation has dried up?
If you’re polite, nothing is stopping you from telling the person that it was great meeting them and that you’re going to try and meet a few more people before the event is over.
Do you have any tips or tricks that you’ve picked up on?
When I first moved to NYC, I went to a party at a gorgeous triplex, hosted by a friend of a friend. The minute the door opened, I was so intimidated by the wealth and status of the other people there, I felt like I was back in Junior High! I quickly got my panic under control and did the most natural thing–I just started smiling at people and introducing myself. You’d be surprised at how far you can get just by relaxing, putting on a smile and saying hi. I met some of my first friends in NYC that night, and I’m still friends with the owner of the apartment.
You’d be surprised at how far you can get just by relaxing, putting on a smile and saying hi.