4 Ways to Overcome Your Networking Fears

No matter how many times we hear from our mentors that networking is the key to our professional future, it doesn't seem to take away that unpleasant emotion we feel every time we see an invitation pop up in our e-mail inbox. Rather than tell you how important networking events are, I want to share with you 4 strategies that can help you to network strategically, and project confidence and class, even if you don't feel it.

Set 1-3 goals for the event. Setting goals gives you direction when you're at a networking event. By establishing in your mind what you want to achieve, you can walk into the networking event room with purpose and direction. Before each networking event, take out a piece of paper and jot down 1-3 goals you want to achieve at the event. Your goals may be to meet 3 people who can help elevate your career, or to introduce yourself to 3 people whom you've never met. Think strategically and choose goals that will help you with your professional advancement.

Speak power with your body language. Body language has a major impact on the first impression we make. By adopting powerful body language poses at networking events, you can immediately change your impression from meek and insecure to poised and powerful. Confident body language stems from good posture. Hold your rib cage up and keep your head held high. When you hold your head high you expose your neck, the most vulnerable part of your body, and project to the networking crowd confidence and poise. Remember, body language does not only influence how others perceive us, it also influences how we perceive ourselves.

Align your voice with your image. You've already established confidence and power through your body language and your outfit. Now you need to make sure this carries through to your voice. A common issue for women is the “upswing”, or “uptalk”; the noticeable rise of your voice at the end of your statements. This rise makes your statement sound more like a question and projects the image that you're unsure of what you're saying. To avoid being seen as insecure, make a concerted effort to push your voice down at the end of your statements.

Choose the right group to talk with. If you enter the networking event late and groups have already been formed, it can be a little daunting to walk up to a group and break into their conversation. But if you choose the right group to talk with, you can slide into their conversation with relative ease. When you walk into the room, look to the crowd and take notice of the body language the people are using. Choose a group where one person's feet and shoulders are slightly turned outward from the group. This usually indicates they are open to others (you) joining them.

What are some networking obstacles that you had or are currently experiencing? How did you overcome them?

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