I love networking but I've had to learn how to do it, and I've learned to love it.
I'm probably considered outgoing and approachable by most who meet me, but I can be a little introverted at times, and so networking was something that didn't come easily at first.
Fake it 'til you make it has long been a favourite of mine and it applies well to networking. I don't mean be fake. Quite the opposite in fact, you need to be authentic and genuine.
But if you think about who a person would be if they were great at networking, how they would behave, what they would say etc., and then you act in that way, then you will become a great networker. To become good at anything it's all about practice, right?
First and foremost, networking is about establishing relationships. Having an attitude of "it's not about me" goes a long way. Come at any networking conversation with a mindset of "how can I help this person.
Is there something that you know that could be useful for their business? Is there someone that you know who you could refer them to, or who you know would benefit from their services? Can you introduce them to someone that would be a great fit as a strategic partner for their business?
Do your best to make those you meet feel welcome. Most likely they'll be feeling some degree of anxiety about being there too. What can you do to help them to feel more at ease?
I find a good approach is to ask people questions about themselves or their business, to be genuinely interested in them. It's not all about you! People like to talk about themselves, and people feel good about themselves when someone is interested in them. I'm always interested to hear what people are up to, especially in business. It can be fascinating.
Even if you aren't able to help them immediately, gaining a good understanding of their business means that you will be able to refer them at some point in the future when you come across someone else who needs what they've got.
Beyond that, the very act of smiling can enhance our mood and mindset, it's been proven. A genuine smile also makes us more likable. So slap a smile on your dial and act like you're the best networker there is.
You might go home a bit worn out if you're an introvert, I'm going to be honest, but I think you will have had a pretty good time nonetheless, and hopefully, have made some good connections that could turn into long term business relationships, or even friendships.