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Survival guide for people who are uncomfortable at network evenings

Author: Bérénice Kimpe (Head of International Department)

After hearing that you need to network, you finally got going and signed up for a networking party. Congratulations! Problem: you're not one of those people who feel at home wherever they go and make contacts in the blink of an eye. Here are a few personal tips on how to make the most of these networking evenings!

When you registered for the Networking Evening, you felt full of energy. But now that you're a few hours away from the beginning of the evening, you feel that your motivation is rapidly waning (the famous little phrase "I don't feel like it anymore" which almost becomes a leitmotiv) because you already imagine yourself alone, leaning against a high table, a glass in one hand and a small oven in the other, waiting for the (endless) evening to happen. In short, a nightmare for all introverted people who don't dare or don't know how to approach strangers at these parties.
Little practical advice from an introvert who has managed to turn her nightmare into a playground!

1. Set small goals

Getting out of your comfort zone is a gradual process. So there's no point in setting yourself ambitious goals in terms of contact: you risk failure and frustration. Besides, approaching people and talking to them is going to take a lot of energy at first.
For example, limit yourself to two contacts in the evening. These are your goals for the evening, keep them in mind to stay motivated until you have achieved them. Then it doesn't matter how you behave after this first victory ("relaxation" evening or continuation of this positive spiral in terms of contact): you have succeeded once, so you can do it again!
The more you practice, the more comfortable you will be.

2. Go out on your own!

If the fact of coming with someone can be reassuring, it has an inhibiting effect because you are tempted to spend the evening with the person who accompanies you. The goal is to come out of your shell. If you are alone, you will have no choice but to go to the others.
Sometimes, solitude is good!

3. Target single people!

Do you think it's an impossible step to integrate a group of five people? Then focus on single people. There are several reasons why they are lonely: like you, they don't know anyone yet, in which case they will be happy to have company. Or they are alone because they are waiting for people who have not yet arrived, which will allow you to broaden your circle of contacts without making too much effort.
Alone people are therefore your ticket to networking: admit that a single person is much less scary than a group, isn't it?

4. The buffet, your (new) best friend!

I have always believed that the only purpose of the buffet offered at these parties was to quench the thirst and feed the participants. Wrong! The buffet is also a contact facilitator: it is thanks to a lawyer-shrimp couch that I am now in contact with one of the facilitators of the alumni network of a large company. We "jumped" on this sofa at the same time: he left it to me, I thanked him and I took the opportunity to introduce myself. The discussion was on.
Many poles are stretched out around the buffet and you have to know how to spot them and above all how to grab them! Someone made a remark like "Everything looks appetizing! "or seems to be hesitating between several petits fours? Take the ball by saying, for example, that you've tested this or that petit four, that this one is better than that one... And above all, remember to engage in another level of discussion: "Is this the first time you've come to this party? "or "what made you come to this party? ». You can't spend the evening discussing wine and shrimp!
It may seem very basic and down-to-earth, but it works!

5. Friendliness and humour, your best weapons!

Without going so far as to continually display a Julia Roberts smile, remain friendly: it's a proven fact that you want to talk to someone who's smiling more than to someone who's sulking or for whom you feel uneasy or even uninterested.
As for humour, it's not because you're in a professional network that you should neglect it, quite the contrary! Naturally, it is not a question of making heavy or irrelevant jokes that will frighten your interlocutor, but rather to use this trait of mind finely.
In March 2013, my train between Hanover and Frankfurt will be late. Sitting at the window, I have to bother my neighbour so I can go out for some fresh air, which I quickly explain to him. When I get back, he asks me if the air has done me any good, to which I reply: "Taking a breath of fresh air in the midst of smokers, there's nothing more refreshing! "He laughed and that's what made me start the conversation: the connection, through his laughter, had been established and we spent the 2-hour trip discussing our respective professional environments and especially a subject that we both find fascinating: interculturality. I had just met one of the head of business unit of another large company in Japan.

 

The best encounters are often the ones you don't expect, but you have to have the audacity to approach people. And this boldness is acquired through training, which can be done at any time. My last training session to date? When I was waiting in line for coffee at a trade show, I had a quick chat with the person in front of me who had just made a comment about waiting time. It was a sales manager from a British company.

Now it's your turn!

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