You are definitely not alone in feeling more comfortable being alone or distanced from social gatherings where you are surrounded by virtually nobody you are friends with or have met before. Being shy or introverted is nothing to be ashamed of, you don’t need to become someone else in order to network successfully and gain business relationships.
Whatever you do, don’t hug the punch bowl or people-watch with an intensity that becomes off-putting for the rest of the others in the room. How do you be a more approachable, confident version of yourself? It’s easy if you just remember these basic rules.
A (Wo)Man with a Plan
research leading up to it, read some current events within the industry. These are great conversation starters and provide opportunities to interject, just don’t be too aggressive with those “well, actually” comments. People will smell desperation a mile away.
Sample the Buffet
Try to keep moving after about a ten-minute conversation, if the conversation isn’t specifically pegging any potential business ventures. Listening to what people have to say is often more important that going full-on promotional mode. Always exchange business cards, even if you feel the conversation didn’t go well. It may feel awkward, but, as Wayne Gretzky famously said: “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”
The Day After
If you felt like you had a pretty good talk with the contacts that you picked up at the event, don’t miss your opportunity to solidify that relationship by following up with an email. If this sounds vaguely similar to the dating scene, well, there are definitely parallels to courting in the professional world. In fact, if you become pretty comfortable networking for business purposes, there is a good chance much of that will translate well when pursuing social or romantic relationships.