When you represent your employer at an industry event, you want to radiate crisp, competent professionalism. But it’s harrowing to wander into a conference room packed with hundreds of strangers.
You stride purposefully into the sea of people trying to look self-assured. So far, so good. But what do you do next?
Start by weaving your way into small groups. Glom onto existing conversations and slowly make your presence felt. Eventually, you’ll see an opening to introduce yourself—and bonds start to form.
If you’re too self-conscious, you can blow it. Don’t call attention to your self-doubt by making timid, wishy-washy comments.
“A common error people make when networking is they speak in a language that projects their insecurities,” says Michael Melcher, a partner at Next Step Partners, adevelopment firm in New York City.
If you hear others share their experience applying for jobs, you may say, “I guess I’m lucky. I’ve never had to apply for a job before.”
What you’re really saying is, “I don’t identify with any of you.” That’s not the smartest way to launch a rewarding conversation.
Poor networkers mistakenly tend to portray themselves as victims. No one likes a bellyacher.
“Stay away from personal drama,” Melcher says. “Don’t talk about how a company wronged you or how someone insulted you. People are attracted to winners who deal with setbacks effectively. You won’t get very far if you make people feel sorry for you.”