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Overcoming Networking Anxiety: Tools for Building Confidence

Nora Fraser, Founder, Equi Consultancy Partners and The Multicultural Professional Network (MPN)

Networking is an essential aspect of being an entrepreneur, yet it often comes with significant challenges. As a People and Culture Leader and social entrepreneur, I have encountered my fair share of networking hurdles. With a background in various roles, I've learnt several strategies to build confidence and forge lasting connections. 


Early in my career, I found networking events daunting. The pressure to make a good impression and engage meaningfully with strangers can be overwhelming. However, I realised that successful networking lies in preparation and mindset. Before attending an event, I identify individuals I would like to connect with, giving me a sense of direction and boosting my confidence in initiating conversations. 


One effective strategy I’ve adopted is setting small, achievable goals for each networking event. Rather than aiming to meet everyone in the room, I focus on making a few meaningful connections with people who align with my values. This approach reduces the pressure and allows for more genuine interactions. Additionally, I practise active listening. Showing genuine interest in others’ stories and experiences not only fosters deeper connections but also makes conversations more enjoyable. 


People often wonder what to say when meeting someone new. Writing out a script in advance can be very helpful. Create prompts for what you’d like to discuss or share at the networking event, including questions you’d feel comfortable asking. This can range from small talk to reflections on what’s happening in your local community. Having these prompts can significantly boost your confidence because you already know what you’re going to say, and in the moment, you won’t be searching for words. 


It’s important to remember that others are likely in the same situation. Many people experience similar feelings at networking events. Recognising this can make the experience more comfortable. 


Building confidence in networking also involves self-reflection and embracing one’s unique strengths. As someone passionate about driving transformative change, I leverage my expertise and experiences to contribute to conversations. Whether discussing innovative DEIB programmes or sharing insights on organisational culture, I ensure that my contributions are valuable and relevant. 


Another pivotal aspect of successful networking is understanding that everyone at the event is there for the same reason – to connect. Recognising this shared goal reduces the pressure. Additionally, following up after the event is crucial. A simple message or LinkedIn connection expressing appreciation for the conversation can solidify new connections and open doors for future opportunities. 


In conclusion, successful networking requires preparation, setting realistic goals, active listening, self-reflection, and follow-up. By implementing these strategies, I have transformed my approach to networking and built a robust network that supports my personal and professional growth. If you find networking intimidating, remember that it’s a skill that can be developed with practice and perseverance. 


Embrace each opportunity to connect, and you’ll soon see the benefits it brings to your career and personal development. Once you have the confidence to handle one event, it’ll become easier to face the next one, and the one after that too. 

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