13 Tips to Make Networking Less Intimidating

The majority of people who are new to networking are intimidated by it. There is a vulnerability about walking into a room full of strangers and having to introduce yourself. The fear of being judged, fear of saying something stupid, blowing an opportunity, not being liked etc. rattle around in the majority of people’s heads.



Even the most experienced networkers I know admit they once felt exactly the same way. The good news is… It get’s easier over time as your confidence grows and you start to build relationships. But in response to a comment I received via twitter this week I wanted to share some ideas to make attending networking events much easier.

So if you are the person in a networking event stood at the side of the room pretending to read important emails so you don’t feel quite so awkward, or you have just poured your 4th cup of coffee just to have something to do with your hands… this blog is for you. You might even learn to enjoy it!

1. Reframe What Networking Means in Your Mind

What do we know about networking? A bunch of professional people are coming together to make new friends in business, share ideas and help each other. That doesn’t sound too bad does it? Instead of focusing on the things that could go wrong, start to look forward to the positive outcomes of networking and reframe it in your mind.

2. Find Events That Are Fun

Having run over 1000 networking events in my time we always tried to have a little fun whilst doing it. Seek out events that have a little personality or a sense of humour, this puts a genuine smile on peoples faces and creates an altogether welcoming environment. I recently saw a promotional youtube video created by a BNI group in North East England which was really funny and showed each member of the group in a really good light (See below). If I was looking for a regular breakfast group, this is exactly the type I would seek out, a group where they don’t take themselves too seriously.

You may also find seeking out events that relate more to your industry easier as you know there is common ground with other attendees so conversation will be easier.

3. Get Organised In Advance

Many events will publish attendee lists in advance of the event where you can get a sense of who is coming. Take some time to look through their profiles and maybe singles out a few people where you think there might be some good synergy. Find something worthy of a sincere compliment on their website/LinkedIn profiles which shows them you took time out to understand their business.

If there is no list published ask the organiser for an attendee list.

4. Connect In Advance

As above, there is nothing to stop you connecting with attendees via social media in advance. Give them a shout out on twitter telling them you are looking forward to meeting them at the event or message them on LinkedIn. Chances are they will look at your profile too and your starting point when face to face will be the things you have in common.

5. Ask For Introductions From the Host

When you arrive at an event, rather than doing the nervous dance in the middle of the room, ask the organiser for a couple of introductions. This is obviously easier if you have an idea of the type of person you want to meet.

6. Don’t Be Afraid To Ask For Help

The simple act of asking for help is a sign of intimacy and creates trust. It demonstrates you are comfortable with vulnerability and being indebted to someone. Even better, people naturally want to help and feel good when their opinion is valued.

Asking for help, for advice or suggestions generates good feelings for all parties and it can be as simple as “I wonder if I can ask for your advice, I am am new to networking, what do I need to do to get the most from it?”

7. Bring a Friend

Whilst I wouldn’t advise you walk around in pairs because it dilutes your conversations, arriving with a friend can help you make a more confident entrance. Also knowing they are there if you start to feel awkward means you can join them to give yourself a boost.

Also when you do split up, you can contact swap the interesting people you meet and make introductions to each other.

8. Control the Controllables

You are in control of what you say, wear, the expression on your face, the time you arrive etc.

  • Wear something you feel confident in. For a networking event make an effort with your wardrobe so you look sharp and feel good about yourself. This will impact the way you act.
  • You are in charge of your face. I once delivered a talk and all the way through a chap in the audience looked bored as hell, even a little upset at what I was saying. At the end of my talk he approached and told me that I was the best speaker he had seen in a long while and had learned a lot. All I could think while he told me this was ‘You forgot to tell your face’ 😉 . Remember it is free to smile and it puts people at ease. Wear yours often.
  • Rehearse your small talk. I like to be up on current affairs and would always check the BBC news app on my phone before I walk into an event.
  • Arrive early. Walking into a room full of people can be very intimidating, yet your arrival time is totally in your control. By arriving early, new arrivals need to come to you.

9. Master The Art of Asking Questions

A common mistake many people make is feeling the need to be ‘interesting’ or ‘funny’ etc. Learn to be curious about people and ask great questions. When you show genuine interest in people they not only like you for it, but they typically reciprocate.

10. Seek Out Others Who Look Like They Are Nervous

At the events we used to run, we tried to encourage the mantra ’No-one gets left behind’ i.e. if you see someone standing on their own, bring them into your conversation. If you arrive at an event and see someone reading their emails or hanging around the coffee area, chances are they are feeling the same way you are and will really appreciate someone to talk to.

11. Look For Friendly Faces & Open Body Language

At every event you go to take a moment to quickly observe the room. Who looks friendly? Which conversations look a little more casual and therefore easier to join? Who looks like they are deeply involved in a conversation that might not welcome an interruption?

Just being mindful of others body language will make it easier for you to join in.

12. Remember People Buy People First

You can build rapport quickly if you can find common ground with someone, do you share an interest? Do you know the same people? It doesn’t have to be work related and in fact it might be more meaningful if it isn’t. People are more likely to get involved with you if they feel a personal affiliation with you.

13. Remember to Breathe

You may be feeling anxious as you walk into room but remember to take a few deep breathes and relax. I have a little breathing exercise I do before most important meetings, before I go on stage, in fact whenever I need to focus. I simply breathe in for 3 seconds, hold for 3 seconds and breath out for 3 seconds. Repeat for a couple of minutes preferrably in a quiet place. Try it.

I hope these tips help and feel free to add to them in the comments. Also please feel free to share this post if you liked it to help me help more people.

Also if you have a question, comment or observation you would like me to discuss on my blog, let me know @WarrenCass