You’re about to attend your first fashion launch. You don’t know what to expect and being you, social events are mentally exhausting and of course daunting. But you have to go, your boss has ordered you to network and report on the fashion brand’s new AW fashion line. You don’t know anyone there. You love fashion, but the thought of having to make small talk with complete strangers is giving you heart palpitations.
This is every introvert’s worst nightmare. Many people experience social anxiety – even the most confident person can struggle with establishing meaningful business relationships. I’ve always been a shy person who prefers to apply the less is more approach when in social settings. So when the opportunity came to attend my first networking event I was daunted by the task. I love the fashion industry but, lets face it, to get where you want to be in life you have to put yourself out there. So I developed a few simple strategies to overcome my networking anxiety.
- If you’re an introvert, you’re probably very analytical with people. This is because you prefer to observe rather than include yourself in the social scene. Use this to your advantage and scout the crowd for ideal people to converse with. Search for friendly faces and open body language. Observe your own body language too, keep it friendly with a smile and always make eye contact. If you’re nervous, start off by approaching individuals who stand alone, chances are they are as introverted as you.
- Striking up a conversation with a stranger can be tricky. But with some practice, it can become second nature. All you have to remember are the following tips. 1 – compliment, 2 – question, 3 – comment and then 4 – collect. I personally start off with a compliment, in the fashion industry this is very easy, since most people there are quite stylish. So, complimenting their outfit will take you a long way. Next, question: “Where did you buy that stunning bag?” is guaranteed to get you a smile. Next thing you know you’re conversing with a perfect stranger. The last tip in this point is to remember to collect. By this I mean listen. In this way collect as many useful facts about the person as you can. An easy way to get someone to like you is to be a good listener and let them talk about themselves. Of course, it is still important to converse and talk about yourself too, but ideally you want to collect information that is relevant to you personally and in a professional capacity. So pay attention to what they have to say.
- Always conclude by exchanging contact details. Have your business card ready and make sure that your contact information is updated. These days exchanging social media handles is a must, so make sure you have those written down too. Follow them on social media and where promised, follow up with an email.
The truth about learning any new skill is that the more you practice, the easier it gets. It’s no different with networking. If you follow this easy formula and above all just be yourself, you’ll be rewarded with new contacts and a newfound confidence too!