Networking may not be the easiest thing to do especially if you consider yourself socially shy. However, it is one of the most important things that you can do for your brand, business, or career. Although many people dread the idea of connecting with complete strangers, networking events are actually not as bad as they appear.

The trouble is that most individuals tend to overthink things prior to the events, sort of like a blind date, which usually ends up making the whole experience daunting. To ensure that you make the most of your networking meetings and events, here are some tips to help you connect and mingle like a pro.

Prepare

Let’s face it; networking events are not the simplest of events to prepare for. What will you wear? Should you practice conversation starters ahead of time? Fortunately, it is entirely possible to prepare for first time encounters with strangers with a little practice. Before the event, familiarize yourself with some of the ground rules and set an objective. For instance, your goal could be to connect with at least 10 industry leaders, and so on.

Arrive early

Even if you are nervous, please resist the impulse to arrive at the event late. Think of it this way, arriving late at a business function for networking purposes will not help you make the best first impression. Plus, by arriving early, you will not only get a chance to scope the place, but you will also be able to get to the early arrivals without too much interference from anyone else.

Build relationships rather than sell yourself

Networking is all about building partnerships and relationships. As such, do not walk in with every intention of selling or overselling yourself or your business because you will probably end up turning people off. Instead, keep your conversations light, fun and informal. By establishing a rapport, you will be able to start a conversation and keep it going- it is a lot easier to conduct business with someone that you get along with.

Attend with someone you know

The best way to network particularly if you are nervous is to attend with other people. It could be anyone, whether a colleague or business partner, just as long as they are also looking to meet people as well. Attending with someone helps to kill two birds with one stone; it will take care of your nerves owing to the friendly support and it will allow you to meet people easily through referrals.

Use social media for research

Social media has changed everything specifically the way that people network today. The best introductions and conversations are those ones that appear natural and effortless. As such, leverage the power of social media to research attendees so that you can come prepared with questions and possible conversation starters.

Carry your business cards

Business cards may seem antiquated in this day and age, but they are still by far the best networking currency at these events. Ensure that you update your design and carry them to trade with attendees.

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