Five In-Person Networking Tips for the Socially Awkward

awkward

Obvious But Necessary Tools For Working the Social Industry Circuit

Face it. We’re not all social gurus, masters of the nuances of networking and schmoozing our way among others. But networking, in person and virtually, is becoming an increasingly in-demand necessary skill to landing a job and keeping it, or, at the very least, staying within your preferred industry.

But not everyone is savvy in a social situation. Here are few tips to keeping your cool, even if your palms are super sweaty.

Practice Your Introduction

One of the toughest challenges for the socially awkward is breaking the barrier and introducing themselves.

Some people make self-introductions look painless. Others make it look like a chess game.

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The best method for making that introduction is to simply say hello.

Have a mutual friend? Did you recently attend a panel of theirs? Do you work for the same company? Did you go to the same college? All of these are great starting points for your introduction, along with your name.

Make Eye Contact

This might sound like a given, but for many people, a natural reaction to being uncomfortable or feeling awkward in a social situation is to break or refuse to make eye contact. Eye contact is a crucial social cue, and if you’re conscious of it, it’s easy to maintain.

Keeping in mind that solid eye contact does not equate to staring down the person you’re talking to, it’ll start to feel natural after a few introductions and you’ve loosened up at the event.

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Good communication with solid eye contact shows that you’re confidant, engaged, and genuine, even if you’re feeling a little shaky in the knees. And no, staring at your phone doesn’t count as eye contact.

It’s Not a Masquerade

Most networking events are after-hours or weekend events, intentionally casual. Unless you’re coming straight from work, don’t worry about having that three-piece suit dry cleaned for the event.

Blazer, pressed pants, and a clean shirt are your safest bets.

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The best rule of thumb is to not look like a slob. But, since you’re not attending a prom either, gauging appropriate casual wear can be a bit of a challenge, especially if you haven’t played the networking event circuit much.

If you’re going to the event with someone, don’t feel shy about asking about the dress code.

Don’t Play Monopoly

Networking is just that: networking. You’re there to make connections, contacts, and possibly snag some leads on a new job.

Most networking events are pretty casual and conversations tend to be brief introductions and short exchanges of contact information, industry experience, and common interests. Monopolizing the time of one person negates the purpose of the event.

In a nutshell, have a good time, but don’t corner your conversation partner.

Your Phone Is Not Your Date

What’s the point of going to a networking event if you’re just going to be on your phone all night?

Bring your phone with, but only as a tool to look up and store those contacts that you meet. LinkedIn and Evernote both have great contact management apps, but it’s also okay to just grab that business card and send an invitation to connect online later.

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Image: iStockphoto

About The Author

Laura Whitener is the managing editor of Firmology, technology focused news and insight for small business owners and online entrepreneurs. Laura graduated from DePaul’s notable Master of Writing and Publishing program in Chicago. She survives on coffee, apples, and Pandora. When she isn't editing or writing, Laura enjoys knitting, adding to her massive book collection, and culinary adventures. You can find Laura on Twitter and LinkedIn.