What do you do when you find yourself in a room full of strangers and don’t know anyone? Maybe you’re attending your first networking event. Maybe your spouse brought you to their office Christmas party. Maybe you’re attending your first ever industry convention and are at the networking party. Whatever the reason, people often have trouble meeting someone new at a time like this.
People don’t like being in these situations, because they don’t know what to say, they’re worried about being seen as too aggressive, or looking like they only want to make contacts to help themselves. How do you get beyond that and meet someone?
First, get over yourself:
Think you’re the only shy person who has ever existed in history? Not a chance. I’d be willing to bet that nearly everyone else in the room feels the exact same way. They just happened to already know someone. But at one point or another, everyone was in their first ever large group of people. They survived it, so can you. So suck it up, walk up to someone new, and…
Introduce yourself, ask what they do, or what brought them there, then listen:
It’s not a great conversation starter, but until you learn some better ones, kick off with the easiest. Ask them what they do, or if you’re at a social event, ask them what brought them there. Then listen to the answer. Let them talk for a while (believe it or not, the more you listen, the more you’ll be considered a great conversationalist). Find out what interests them and what they hope to find, either at the gathering or at another time during their week.
If you know someone who can help them, offer to connect them:
A good networker does not try to see if they can meet people to benefit themselves, or how many cards they can pass out. Instead, they try to help as many people as they can. If they can do that, their generosity will be returned to them in greater amounts. So as you talk to someone, and they mention a problem they’re having or something they would like to accomplish, and you know someone who can help them achieve it, offer to connect them. If that other person happens to be there in the room, introduce them right away. If you want to cement your place in this person’s mind as someone who’s worth knowing, connecting them with the people who can help them achieve their goals will do it.
Don’t monopolize all their time:
You’re not going to meet your new BFF here, so don’t try. However, you will meet some great people who could end up having a significant impact on your life. But that doesn’t happen all at once. It’s a long-term relationship that gets developed over the months and years. Once you meet someone and make a good connection, arrange to meet for coffee or lunch later on. That’s where the foundation of the relationship will be built, not in a room full of people.
Networking with people isn’t hard. It’s a matter of being confident, listening to other people, and helping them achieve their goals and solve their problems. If you can master that, you’ll find that meeting new people is one of the easiest things to do, even for the most introverted of us.
Erik Deckers is the owner of Professional Blog Service, and the co-author of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself, which is now in its 2nd edition. He co-wrote his previous book,No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing, with Jason Falls in 2011; both books are available at Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million. Erik is also a professional speaker. And he knows that none of this would have happened without Darrin.