Eight top tips to network with confidence

June 2nd, 2018

One of the big dates in the internal comms calendar is nearly upon us – The Big Yak. Excitement has been building for some time as it’s an opportunity to learn, share ideas and network.

But for some people networking can bring on a case of the jitters. Speaking to people you don’t know. Worrying you’ll be out of your depth. And how do you start up a conversation with a stranger anyway?

As an introvert I’ve experienced all these things, but over the years I’ve pushed myself out of my comfort zone and have actually come to enjoy networking. My network has been completely invaluable to me over the years, and I certainly wouldn’t have been able to set up my business without it. And of course it helps that internal comms is one of the friendliest and supportive industries you could hope to find.

So, ahead of Saturday’s big event, I’ve shared some of my top networking tips, along with insights from some of the best and brightest in our industry (be sure to look out for them next weekend!)…

A lot of other people will be feeling the same way
Arriving at a big event can feel really lonely. What if everyone else arrives with friends or is confident enough to introduce themselves to new people? Not likely.

There’ll be plenty of people rocking up for the first time, feeling super nervous. You will not be alone, which means there will be a room full of people hoping someone will approach them and start a conversation. In fact, if you see someone with no one to talk to, make a point of going over to them.

And if you are arriving with friends and colleagues, be brave, separate and mingle. You’ll get a huge amount more out of the event.

Prepare some topics you want to chat about beforehand
Not to the extent that you sound like a robot, but the Big Yak is all about learning and sharing ideas, so what do you want to get out of it? Have a brainstorm beforehand and then chat to people you meet about those topics.

It’s also worth jotting down a few things you’ve been working on recently so you can draw on them when people ask you questions – when you’re nervous those things can disappear from your mind. Reread your list on the way in and you’ll be fully prepared.

Get involved on social media in the lead up
It’s much easier to approach people if you’ve already had a conversation on Twitter or LinkedIn. Follow #TheBigYak on Twitter and join in the chat. You could even ask if any IC pros from your industry will be there or people with expertise in specific areas such as change comms or measurement and arrange to meet up. That way you’ll recognise people when you arrive and you can pick up where you left off.

Be curious
As internal communicators, we’re naturally curious so use it to your advantage. Everyone attending the Big Yak will be interesting (they’re internal communicators, how could they not be?), so reframe the situation to one where you get to ask insightful questions and learn things about interesting people.

Networking is about listening as well as talking
People focus a lot on what to say to others when networking but remember it’s also about listening to the other person. You don’t have to do all the talking! And if you’re someone that loves to talk, remember not everyone finds it as easy, so make sure you ask them questions and fully listen to their answers.

Take some time out
Just because the event is all day, doesn’t mean you have to be ‘on’ all day. There’ll be a chill out zone at The Big Yak where you can take some time out and recharge. Or go for some fresh air. Networking can be draining even if you are enjoying it, and there’s nothing wrong with taking five minutes to yourself.

It’s ok to not know things
The point of events like this is to learn. No one is going to judge you for not knowing something or for asking questions. And you probably have experiences, expertise and knowledge that’s unique to you that others will be interested in hearing. Internal communicators are a lovely bunch, and will no doubt be happy to continue conversations over email, social media or in person, in the weeks that follow, if you’re interested in picking someone’s brains a bit more.

Smile
Take a deep breath, uncross your arms, roll your shoulders back and smile. If your body language is open and welcoming, people will naturally gravitate towards you. And don’t forget to enjoy yourself!

The Big Yak and all the other IC events throughout the year are great opportunities to develop yourself and your careers. Don’t let fear hold you back. I’ll be there next Saturday so do come over and say hi if you spot me – and if you have a piece of advice I’ve not mentioned in this blog, comment below so others can benefit from your wisdom!

Here’s what some fellow internal communicators had to say…

 

Categories: EventsInternal communicationNetworkingThe Big Yak

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