We’re out of practice and many of us would rather the ground swallowed us up than having to introduce ourselves to someone new at an event.
As the world re-opens after the pandemic, we’re all finding our feet meeting new people in person for the first time in a year and a half. These interactions are probably feeling a lot less smooth than they used to be. After all, we’ve just had a year without strangers.
Many of us have grown our networks in 2020/21 using Instagram and LinkedIn, but is there anything quite so awkward as seeing someone you’ve only spoken to online in an IRL setting? It can be particularly difficult when you’re not completely sure what the other person looks like, let alone when they’re also wearing a mask!
Digital networking can be comforting, because you often don’t have to show your face or think up words on the spot. But the real world is back, baby! Go get it!
“Hi I’m X, we’ve spoken on Instagram” might feel a bit embarrassing, and it can be hard to muster the courage to start the interaction, but we can guarantee that the other person will be really pleased that you spoke up. It’s like waxing your legs – better to get it over with quickly. Even if your communication with that person will remain pretty solely online thereafter, in-person connecting can really boost your rapport.
Some tips for IRL networking, even when you’re shy:
- Open with who you are, ask what it is they do, ask if they have an Instagram you can follow.
- Business cards might feel like a thing of the past, but they can help to present you as a proactive go-getter. Bring business cards if you’d like to continue a working relationship with someone you’ve met. This can save you time talking at length about what you do and send them to your website / email address at a later date.
- Team up with a networking pal. Going around an event in pairs feels much less intimidating that flying solo. If your friend is an extravert, they can take the lead on getting that conversation flowing.
- Be smiley! Even if your cheeks hurt by the end of the evening, seeming approachable and friendly never hurt anybody. Smiling will help other people too relax, too. Pretty soon you’ll be mid-conversation with other happy smiley people. Lovely.