Embrace the Return to Networking in the New World: It Might Feel Awkward But It’s Worth It!
As the world gradually (reluctantly it seems) returns to a sense of normalcy, professionals are finding themselves facing an exciting yet daunting prospect: the return to networking.
After an extended period of remote work and digital interactions, the idea of engaging in face-to-face networking might feel awkward and overwhelming. However, it is crucial to acknowledge that networking remains a cornerstone of personal and professional growth.
We ran a recent poll and here is what people found most awkward and some tips to help you move out of your comfort zone and into the room again.
1. Knowing What to Say and Do (38%)
The fear of awkward interactions often stems from uncertainty about what to say or how to engage with others. However, it is essential to remember that networking is a shared experience, and many attendees might feel similarly. To overcome this hurdle:
Prepare: Having a few conversation starters ready can help ease initial awkwardness. Simple questions about shared interests or industry-related topics can lead to engaging discussions.
Be genuine and authentic: Presenting your true self fosters a sense of trust and rapport. Embrace vulnerability, share your passions, and actively listen to others to create an environment of authenticity.
Seek common ground: Look for shared interests, experiences, or goals to build connections naturally. Finding common bonds is an excellent way to establish a foundation for a meaningful conversation.
2. Leaving Without Seeming Rude (29%)
Knowing when and how to gracefully exit a conversation can be a concern, especially if you don't want to come across as rude, dismissive, or uninterested. Here's how to navigate this:
Be respectful of time: If you sense the conversation has reached its natural conclusion, politely express your gratitude for the interaction and mention that you would love to reconnect later.
Set expectations: It's perfectly acceptable to mention that you need to catch up with other attendees or have a prior engagement.
Offer to exchange contact information: Suggest exchanging business cards or contact details before leaving. This opens the door for follow-up and strengthens the connection beyond the event.
3. Walking into the Room (21%)
The thought of walking into a room full of strangers can trigger anxiety, fear and nerves (to name a few emotions people share with us). However, remember that networking events are designed for connection, and most attendees are open to meeting new people. Consider the following tips:
Positive self-talk: Remind yourself of your strengths and accomplishments. Embrace the event as an opportunity to showcase your skills and engage with like-minded professionals.
Buddy system: If possible, attend networking events with a colleague or a friend. Having a familiar face can provide a sense of comfort and make it easier to approach others (just don’t stick together).
Approach the hosts: Introduce yourself to the event organisers or hosts. They can facilitate introductions and help you feel more at ease in the networking environment.
4. Creating Actual Connections (13%)
It's essential to move beyond superficial conversations and establish genuine connections that can lead to fruitful collaborations and partnerships. To create meaningful connections:
Listen actively: Pay close attention to what others are saying and show a genuine interest in their experiences and aspirations. Engage in meaningful conversations by asking open-ended questions.
Follow up promptly: After the event, reach out to the individuals you connected with. Personalise your follow-up message to reference the conversation you had and express your interest in staying in touch.
Provide value: Networking is a two-way street. Offer your assistance, share valuable resources, or introduce them to someone in your network who could be of help. Providing value strengthens the connection and establishes reciprocity.
What we are witnessing is that while the return to networking may feel awkward at first, it presents a wealth of opportunities for personal and professional growth.
Embrace the initial discomfort as a sign of stepping outside your comfort zone and into a world of endless possibilities. Knowing what to say and do, gracefully exiting conversations, walking into a room confidently, and creating authentic connections are essential skills that can transform networking events into positive experiences.
So, step forward with courage, curiosity, and an open heart, and watch as networking becomes a gateway to new horizons and rewarding connections for you.
If you want to learn more, join us at our next half day workshop that covers it all! https://www.relatus.com.au/mci-workshop
Julia Palmer a respected Relational Strategist and Chief Executive of Relatus, helping you develop your relational capabilities to give you the human advantage.