Breaking Out of the Shell: The Introvert Freelancer’s Guide to Effective Networking

Learning how to network effectively is one of the most powerful tools you can use to advance in your personal and professional life.

What does the best strategy for networking boil down to? Building real relationships, actively maintaining them, and giving as much as you take.

How should you act if you are invited to an event with hundreds of strangers? Who do you meet first? Should you just walk over to someone and introduce yourself?
Here are some tips for you, try them out in the next event you get invited to:

1. Learn how to jumpstart the conversation.

The first conversation with a stranger is usually the hardest, and most folks—even those who aren’t normally shy—often freeze and panic thinking of interesting things to say.

Avoid being caught in that situation by developing a series of easy conversation starters that you can ask others. Simply asking your seatmate if he’s enjoying the food or the speaker will go a long way to jumpstarting a conversation.

Here is a quick and a dirty tip:

Almost everyone will feel as lost as you in these networking events. Scan the room for a kindred soul who looks as intimidated as you are and talk to them. I’m sure they will appreciate the friendly gesture. Not only will you get to start networking, you will also gain a networking wingman!

2. Have a wingman.

A wingman is somebody to accompany you in the meeting. We all know that having a friend nearby can help boost our confidence—nothing beats the sense of security that a wingman provides!

However, don’t make the mistake of just talking to your wingman for the entire event. Instead, help each other to reach out to other people—after all, that’s what these events are for.

3. Perfect your pitch.

Events like these allow you to advertise your skills and experience to your target audience. As such, it’s vital to make a good first impression. One way to do this is to develop an introductory pitch where you briefly state your name, skills, and credentials. A short interesting pitch will surely grab the attention of others and make them more eager to talk to you.

4. Have your updated business cards ready.

It will make a good impression and will make it easier for others to remember you after the event.

5. Explore other forms of networking.

There are various types of networking to suit different needs. The barbecue dinner type of networking is more relaxed, where everyone is encouraged to mingle and talk personally to one another. The so-called forced networking is a more formal set-up where random people are seated together and take turns introducing themselves and exchanging business cards. Choose the type that you are most comfortable with.

6. Leave your worries at the door.

People will appreciate the fact that you tried to talk to them, no matter how much you fumble at first. So just get out there and mingle—who knows, your next big client could be right around the corner!

What do you think? Do you have any other ideas on how to network effectively? Feel free to share them in the comments!

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