You have been invited to a networking event. You are excited and hopeful to learn new things and meet different, interesting people. It’s going to be awesome! Then you think of a crowd of unfamiliar faces, and the nervousness hits you. That’s followed by the expectation to be confident and sociable along with the incessant pressure to be witty and scintillating in front of people you don’t know. This was supposed to be awesome, you tell yourself, but you’re wondering if it’s more work than it’s worth.
If you are familiar with this feeling, fear not, because you are not alone. Here are 5 simple tips that may help you overcome your fear of approaching people.
- Be prepared – Dress comfortably and do your homework. Looking good will certainly boost your self-confidence. We all feel better about ourselves when we are well-dressed and comfortable. People usually have a positive impression toward those who carry themselves with boldness and are relaxed in their own skin.
Also, do your homework. Try to find others who are attending the event and make a list of who you’d like to talk to. Do your research on them and figure out what they’ve been up to. These types of findings will be great conversation starters and give you a reason to approach them.
- Don’t overthink it – This can be really difficult, as overthinking is one of our natural reactions when facing a stressful situation. How exactly can we avoid thinking too much? Take deep breaths and approach the person you want to talk to immediately. It may seem hard, but it will prevent you from twisting the situation in your head. Waiting longer will only trigger you to overanalyze what could have been a simple “hi” followed by a nice introduction. If you are not sure what to, just throw away your script and be natural. You may even be vocal about being nervous, as people appreciate honesty. Remember: the more you think, the harder it becomes.
- Be yourself – Yes, this is a cliché, but the only way to get through your anxiety is to embrace who you are. You are not auditioning for a movie role or applying for a job, you are simply trying to connect with someone. Stop memorizing lines in your head, because more often than not you will not be able to use them. You don’t have to sound super smart, you just have to show the person that you are interesting enough to converse with. As you get more comfortable during the conversation, this is when you carefully add more flair to your dialog.
- Give genuine compliments – Once you’ve approached the person you’re going to talk to, be genuine in your conversation and the comments you’re going to give. The reason you want to connect with a particular person is because you are interested in developing a relationship with him or him. Be sincere in your compliments and comments. People like the feeling of being appreciated for the work they have done, especially when you praise them on something they exerted effort on.
- Remember, you’ll be just fine – Don’t be too hard on yourself. Whatever happens, believe me, you will survive. Real world practice is the best experience, and as you attend more of these events, you will come out stronger and more confident in yourself.
Approaching people, be it a stranger or someone familiar to you, is not everyone’s strong suit. It really takes an enormous amount of courage to start a conversation with someone we don’t know, mainly because we are afraid of rejection and embarrassment. Nevertheless, choosing not to approach people will lessen your chance to grow your circle and learn new things. It is only difficult when you haven’t tried it yet.
Most importantly, remind yourself that you are not the only one. Others are surely as nervous as you are. Sometimes, you are too overwhelmed to realize that not everyone in the room knows each other. Face your fears and you will be surprised at how enjoyable it can be to connect with people.