How to go to a networking event… when you hate networking

I’ve written before on networking, but I’ll admit it. I hate networking.

I’m not good at small talk, I usually regret things I’ve said afterwards, and due to my family commitments, I often find it difficult to commit to attending anything regularly enough to get much benefit from networking events.

That being said, there are certain events that I think are fantastic. The Marketing Meetup is one of them, and I’d highly recommend going along to your nearest Marketing Meetup group (full details on their website). They’re well worth the effort purely for the learning opportunity they provide from a wide variety of speakers working in marketing and marketing-related fields… and when there’s speakers talking, you get a break from the small talk, and have the opportunity to come away from the event feeling you’ve gained something valuable, even if you’ve not spoken to many people (or anyone!).

So with that in mind, here’s five very quick tips for making more of networking, even when you hate it:

  1. Research events in advance. Make sure they are the right fit for you. Will there be speakers? Who else is attending? Are they the type of people you want to do business with? Don’t waste your time on events that a little research could have shown that you won’t get anything out of.
  2. Find out in advance if you need to do a pitch about yourself and your business. Many networking events encourage you to stand up and talk for a minute, which is daunting for many people who hate public speaking, and can eclipse the whole event. Personally, I don’t mind public speaking, but I still try and find out if this is likely to happen first, so that I can prepare briefly – knowing what you’re going to say makes it a lot less scary!
  1. If you really don’t want to attend alone, find a buddy. Ask a colleague to go along with you, even just the first time, so that you have a wingman to help you feel less awkward and help you to break into conversations.
  1. Don’t worry if you don’t speak to anyone. If all you really want is to hear from a great speaker, then choose an event that fits, learn from the presentations on offer, and take anything else that comes along as an unexpected bonus.
  1. Follow up wherever you can. Pop a photo on social media, use the hashtags, write a review, and connect online (or on LinkedIn) with the hosts, speakers and/or people you’ve met at the event. Growing your online community is just as important as speaking to people on the night.

Networking can be scary. But it doesn’t have to be. Just remember that everyone is there for the same reason and smile, it’s a great ice breaker.

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