Years of attending networking events has taught me this one key thing I want to share with anyone who says they're not great at networking events:
Shut up and listen.
I absolutely love networking. Nothing more invigorating to me than walking into a room full of strangers. But my eagerness can quickly turn into talking too damn much. You know that nervous talk we’ve all been guilty of from time to time. That same talk that makes people slowly start to back away from the conversation or glance over their phones.
So years ago, I had an idea: people love talking about themselves. Why not shut up and listen and see what happens? Instead of walking into a room with the expectation of someone wanting to serve me. Why not listen to more people and see how I could serve them? Early on, I lacked confidence in what I offered or wasn't sure how people would respond to me. The anxiety I experienced came from that. I was so scared that people would realize how young I was or that I didn't know everything. I associated sharp dress attire and business cared with a level of confidence that I lacked.
Being a naturally curious (and a corporate recruiter) means that I already ask a ton of questions. So this was an easy adjustment for me.
I quickly noticed how much easier networking became because I made it 10% about me and 90% about the person I was speaking with. I also learned that I wasn't the only one faking confidence in networking events. Many people were just as freaked at the idea of being outted for 'faking it until they made it'
Believe it or not, listening is not a common skill. It takes a lot of effort and self awareness. Make ‘em feel like they’re the most interesting people in the world. That’s how you rock a room full of strangers.