Sweaty palms, check. Nervous flutters, check. Dry mouth, check.
If you’re feeling this way, I’m going to venture to guess you’re attending a business networking event where you don’t know a single person in the room and are now standing in the corner like a wilted flower hoping …praying… that someone will take pity on you and strike up a conversation.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Entering a networking event with a little strategy can go a long way, and you don’t have to turn into one of those people that shove their business card in your face and immediately pitch their business (ick).
Here are a few fun tips and icebreakers to help ease your nerves before your next networking event — and ensure you get quality business connections out of it, too:
1. Ask, “What brought you here today?” This is a great question to ask to break the ice AND learn a little about a fellow attendee’s own goals at the event. This also gives the person you’re speaking with an opportunity to do a little business bragging of their own, while you listen intently.
2. Go au naturale (so to speak). Stumped for something to say? You’re likely not the only one. Walk up and introduce yourself, and then tell people it’s your first time there and you don’t know anyone. People connect with authenticity.
3. Decide who you want to meet in advance. At a conference I attended recently, several people came up to me who recognized me from my website. One gal in particular shouted, “I’m so excited to meet you, I have been a fan of yours for years and I can’t believe I get to meet you in person.” I was so flattered! I could tell she was nervous when she approached me, possibly wondering how I would react to her enthusiasm, but I was incredibly happy to meet a fan — and even happier to get to know her.TIP: Look at the attendee list of the event beforehand. If there’s someone you genuinely want to meet, make an effort to do so. They’ll be happy you did!
4. Share relevant news. If you’re attending an industry-specific event, make sure to read up on the latest news. Statistics, new industry models, or breaking stories make interesting conversation starters.
5. Set up a post-event pow-wow. Always make sure to get a card from the people you meet. Don’t wait for people to follow up with you — take initiative and follow up with them yourself!
Now it’s your turn to take action. What events do you have coming up, and which strategy will you use? Post a comment below and let me know!
CEO GOLF Proud Media Partner of The Young Entrepreneur Council
Melissa Cassera is a PR Expert and President of Cassera Communications, an award-winning PR consultancy that turns business owners into business celebrities. For more information on private consulting with Melissa or to download her free eBook “How to Pitch the Media Like a Pro” visit http://www.casseracommunications.com.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and email lessons.