4 Strategies to Ease Nerves While Networking

In Business, Networking by Joe Sweeney

Have you ever walked into an event with a huge pit in your stomach? You know the feeling that I’m talking about – a certain nervousness where something just isn’t right. Maybe you only know one or two other people at the event, or you feel out of your league, or there’s pressure to get a new client or land a deal.

Try examining that nervousness on a deeper level – what’s really behind it? It indicates that you’re walking into the event focused on yourself. I’m willing to bet that you’re going in with the attitude of get, get, get: “I’ve got to get something. I’ve got to get ten business cards. I’ve got to get a deal. I’ve got to get a client.” And then you’re probably walking out of there saying: “You know what? This whole networking thing doesn’t work anyhow.”

In my book Networking Is a Contact Sport, I recommend you pretend to be the event’s host. The role of the host is to make sure that everybody feels at home, enjoys themselves, and connects with the other guests. The host is not self-focused, but instead is focused on others and their wants and needs.

By pretending to be the host, you’ll be embracing the mindset that networking is ultimately a place you go to give, and not to get. When you truly give to others without any expectations and strings attached, you will receive much more than you ever could have expected. By engaging others with an attitude of giving, not getting, you will become better connected, grow your business, and give your life greater meaning.

Here are some ideas and tips on how to effectively play the host at your next party or networking event:

1. Ask good questions.

Asking thoughtful and inquisitive questions will allow you to really get into someone’s business or their life so that you can connect better. Try to find out what they want and remember that being a good listener is crucial to being a good networker. If you’re not sure where to start, the two topics that I’ve found all people love to talk about are themselves and their kids.

2. Connect people.

Putting people together makes them feel good and enjoy themselves more. If I’m at a party and I see my friend Patrick, I’ll say “Hey Pat, would you like to meet Terry over there?” And I’ll put them together. Even if I go to an event and know only two other people there, I’ll try to connect those two people.

3. Remember names.

If you want to build instant rapport and make a strong impression with new contacts, remember their names. As soon as you meet them, repeat their names. Keep repeating their names. There are countless techniques for remembering names and you’ve got to find one that works for you. Because I like music and movies, I’ll always associate someone’s names with music or movies. So if I meet a Steve or Dan, in my mind they’ll become Stevie Wonder or Lieutenant Dan.

4. Hang out by the door.

Everybody has to come in through the main entrance, so staying near it is a great place to meet and connect with people. I go to the Business Journal’s Book of Lists party here in Milwaukee every year and really like to stay by the door and greet people as they come in. Turns out a lot of folks in town think I actually work for the Business Journal – whoops!

Once you start putting these tips into practice and acting like the host, I’m willing to bet that something fun is going to happen. You’ll exude an energy that will attract other people to you. People will want to get to know you and the people around you. There’s a gravitational force that surrounds the “host” of a party and draws others in.

So go out there and start networking! For more networking and professional development advice, check out the first chapter of my new book, Moving the Needle.