Networking can be hard for those of us who are introverts, but I’ve learned that by considering it more as a marketing project I manage to do much better. By thinking of myself as a product I can allow myself to separate a bit from the situation and assess how to best market myself. For example, if I’m at a networking party then I need to consider who I start with. Obviously I know what my product (me) specializes in and therefore also know that I have a very certain type of customer (employer/area manager/director/etc.) that can and will have a use for me.
By narrowing that down I can narrow a room of individuals down to just those that I need to get in front of at some point. It helps to cut the room down from a large group to just a handful of manageable contacts that I need to make a connection with in order for the networking party to be promising for me. This also makes the crowd less intimidating because I recognize that I don’t have to make a point to meet each and every powerful attendee. I think of the room like baked goods. If I can narrow it down to just one small slice then it will all be a piece of cake; pun intended.
I wouldn’t recommend taking the marketing project so far that you refer to yourself in the third person, as I doubt that will instill confidence in the person you’re speaking with, but it will allow you to separate yourself from the situation a bit so you don’t panic. Think of how you would sell yourself if you were a product on an infomercial. You have 30 seconds to describe all your best qualities that would make someone pick up the phone and order you at some strange hour of the evening without any hesitation. These are the items to keep in mind and gently work into the conversation when appropriate with the contact you have become lucky enough to approach.
Stay calm, collected and professional so that you make the best impression. Of course, I should hope that it would go without saying that you should dress respectfully and professionally. I always assume that people know that until I show up at one of these events and see an array of club wear being worn. I know gas is expensive and people are probably just trying to save the trip back home before their night out, but they can plan ahead and bring an extra set of clothes in the car instead of looking like a solicitor networking for something entirely different. Do you find networking events to be nerve wracking or a piece of cake?