Networking can be cringy, so why bother?
Some people love to network – the opportunity to meet new people, learn new things, and make new connections. But to others, networking can be so cringy. It can make the best of us shrivel up inside with the anticipation of ‘working a room’.
If you’re the kind of person who runs the other way when you see a networking session listed on a conference agenda, it might be because you have the fear of ‘the cringe’: those awkward moments when someone does something embarrassing, or says something that goes against your sense of what’s courteous. Worse still, it might be you making the faux pas…
If you’re worried, don’t be: there are a few strategies you can develop, so the next time you feel the cringe, you can convert it to networking confidence.
(And if you’re really worried about cringiness, it may actually be a good thing – but we’ll come to that later.)
Networking cringe: Meeting new people can be awkward – especially in an intensive session like networking where the whole aim is to meet people. What should you ask them? What if you don’t come across as professional? What if you miss an opportunity, because you had a piece of croissant in your teeth and accidentally gripped the person’s wrist during a handshake?
Networking confidence: Think of it the other way: if networking is designed to help you meet people, then there’s nothing to be worried about. Plan a few questions beforehand that you can ask people. And remember to take an interest in them. They’re likely to be as nervous as you, so do what you can to make them feel at ease, and you may even find them doing the same for you.
And what do you do?
Networking cringe: Somebody asks you about yourself, and you draw a blank. Or in fear of drawing a blank, you come on too strong. Or in fear of coming on too strong, you undersell what you have to offer. Or maybe you try talking but it just comes out as a waterfall of nouns, adjectives and grunts.
Networking confidence: Much of networking success is in the preparation. Take some time beforehand to work on your elevator pitch – a few sentences that perfectly outline who you are and what you do. And most importantly of all, remember that networking is not just about telling people what your job is; it’s far more important to make human connections.
Networking cringe: In a bid to make the session as productive as possible, you dash round the room smothering attendees with business cards and collecting email addresses like they’re Pokémon. At the end of the session, you realise you may not have achieved anything useful after all.
Networking confidence: Whoa there, slow down! Productivity is about making quality connections. Take some time beforehand to write down your realistic objectives for the session. Keep in mind that people will be reluctant to work with someone who doesn’t have a good grasp of their own parameters and aims. And remember that the best connections come from conversations.
The cringe: It should be a fun experience to meet people. What it shouldn’t be, is a place where before you’ve got three words out, the other person has barked their pitch to you and is explaining why you should work with them.
The solution: Networking is rarely like this. But if you feel like the conversation is heading that way a little too quickly, you could suggest swapping business cards, and let them know that you don’t need their services right now, but you’ll keep them in mind. The trick is to keep it breezy and polite. Don’t lie because you’re worried about offending them. It will only make things worse!
Networking cringe: You’ve been chatting to someone and quickly realised there’s no intersection there, regardless of how nice they might be. Should you share details? Or is it better to just never speak with them again?
Networking confidence: Never close down a potential relationship just because there’s no business opportunity between you. For a start, you may be able to exchange general advice; but also, you never know what circles people are in. That person may well know someone they could introduce you to. And if nothing else, you can offer each other moral support.
Networking cringe: “Oh heck, I remember speaking to someone really interesting, but looking at these business cards I can’t remember if it was Joan or Joanna.” You’re likely to meet a lot of people at a networking event, so what happens when you can’t remember who the good leads were?
Networking confidence: Nobody expects you to remember everyone: not many people have iron-cast memories. So here’s a trick: when you’re talking to someone, jot down a few notes in a notebook, or even on their business card. When the dizzy haze of the event is over, you can then easily reflect on your conversations at leisure and work out exactly who you’d like to follow up with.
Juice: Cringe-free networking
There are loads of good reasons to join a networking group: from generating business, to getting known within the community, to becoming more polished and professional.
And if you think it might be cringy, then it’s a good sign that you’re the kind of person who values authenticity over fakery. If so, then you may actually find that you’re great at networking – because you understand that it’s about getting to know people properly; and it doesn’t need to be any harder than that.
For a confidence-boosting, cringe-free networking group, join us at one of our Juice Networking Guest Days. We can’t wait to meet you.