Does meeting new people turn you into a bundle of nerves? When you're in a group do you suddenly realize that you've been the only one talking for a long time? Ever met someone who had your dream job, but couldn't think of what to ask? We've got you covered.
Our 5th Annual Access to Experts is fast approaching, so we asked our experts about some of their go to tips when networking in new or unfamiliar places. From introverts to extroverts, or anyone who could use a brush up on their informational interview skills, there's a little something for everyone.
Meet Your Panel of Experts:
What's your go-to networking tip when you're nervous or in an unfamiliar space?
Make it a game and challenge yourself to meet at least 10 people before the event is up. - Armand King
I always make it a point to go to networking events and unfamiliar spaces alone which forces me to talk to people I don’t know. I find that if I just introduce myself to one person and strike up a conversation, it naturally leads to more introductions and more conversations. - Nancy Maldonado
I tell myself I'm there to meet one specific person - there's a reason I'm there, you just don't know who it is (yet). I go in with a curiosity to figure out who I'm there to meet. I usually say "I'm NAME with ORG. Tell me about yourself - what brings you here?" - it allows people to start with wherever they want. If I'm really on my game, I will also do that with a second person, and I'll introduce the first person to the second person - helps me remember names and, if the conversation isn't happening between me and them, sometimes the two of them will take it up and I will find someone else to speak with. - Rebecca Tall Brown
Find someone standing by themself, who is looking around and approach them with a smile and handshake. It might be a short or long conversation but gets you right into the swing of things. - Angela Titus
I'm sure for most people, it will always be normal to feel a bit nervous when walking into a room with all new faces and/or in an unfamiliar space. It certainly is still the case for me! When that happens, I often to take a moment to scan the room or to take a stroll around. If available, I might grab a bite or a drink (people often strike up conversations around food/drinks). Otherwise, nametags are often a helpful way to start an introduction. Not every moment you spend has to be in conversation with someone in the room! - Kent Lee
I go into any situation with a specific intention. There's a particular person I want to connect with or information I need to come away with to move forward. This gives focus to the uncertain experience and replaces anxiety with purpose. The difference between telling yourself you're nervous or that you're just pumped about your possibilities is just the story you decide to tell yourself. - Don Wells
For Introverts: What would you recommend to help them 'step up' when speaking to an expert?
If there is a crowd around the person, don't worry too much about framing a big question. Just make brief comments or ask clarifying questions to show you are engaged in the conversation. If it's a solo encounter, try asking them how they developed their expertise and if they have any advice for someone still gaining experience in the field. - Angela Titus
Sometimes, all you need is a smile and a welcome handshake to introduce yourself. "Experts" are often no different than any of us although perhaps those individuals have a role that day (speakers, panelists, etc.) It also never hurts to know, in advance, the name and affiliation of the individual you're approaching - as well as the comment/question you may have in mind. - Kent Lee
Our world is SO specialized today that any expert NEEDS to know all about all kinds of facets in order to stay at the top of their game. They need to know data, what works, what doesn't. You hold that knowledge and power to help keep them informed. For instance, people running for office require speech writers, researchers, and data analysts to correct them - now, more than ever, "experts" need people on the ground to keep them correctly informed - your voice is required. - Rebecca Tall Brown
Extroverted or Introverted is just about if you are energized or depleted from interactions with others. This question seems to be more about how confident and expressive you are - not knowing what to say or how to say it to make the connection you seek. The answer is to be a person who asks great questions and who gives quality attention. Don't speak to the expert - be curious, inquire and listen. - Don Wells
Remember that you only live once and that expert is just a human being too. - Armand King
I don’t think you can go wrong with asking someone about how they got started on the path they are on. Asking for advice is also a great way to break the ice with an “expert.” - Nancy Maldonado
For Extroverts: How can they recognize when they need to 'step up' vs. 'step back' when engaging in a group?
Instead of always answering, think of the most impactful place you can insert yourself. Letting others answer and only answering if your answer hasn't come up (plus, by going last, you're the top thing people remember and if you make a particularly brilliant point, you won't be forgotten). Also, give credit when it's due - including more introverted colleagues (for instance, if you're speaking on behalf of a breakout group -common for extroverts - name the people who contributed to specific points. It shows them they're valuable and their speaking up matters to a larger audience- that you're an advocate who will always shine a light in a supportive, safe, way.) - Rebecca Tall Brown
The answer is to be a person who asks great questions and who gives quality attention. Be the person gives attention rather than seeks to be the center of it. The more you ask and listen skillfully and authentically, the more impressive you will be to the group and they will seek your company. - Don Wells
Groups often need someone to get things started to spark introductions and/or conversations. From there, it also helps when someone not only speaks up for themselves but who facilitates introductions and conversations between others as well. - Kent Lee
Pay attention to the person that your speaking too. Do they seem like they are still engaged? Is there a line of people waiting to talk to them also? If so cut it short. - Armand King
For every person I meet and talk with, I make it a point to learn at least five things about them. This can help with stepping back to make sure that I am engaging but not dominating a conversation. - Nancy Maldonado
You'll gain respect from the group and heartfelt thanks if you help someone else get their question in. Often a few voices drown out others, and pointing out that someone has been dying to ask a question will calm the louder voices and allow another person to participate. It's not always about showcasing ourselves but using our comfort level in these situations to help others share the spotlight. - Angela Titus
What is something you wish people would ask you more about?
Owning my own business. I owned and operated my own business before working in non-profit. - Nancy Maldonado
I'm always curious to hear how many industries people have worked in because their career journey is often as interesting as what they are currently doing. - Angela Titus
How being useful, intentional and authentic allows you to lead from any chair and gives you influence. - Don Wells
Don't be afraid to ask me about specific situations that you've spent some time thinking about. Passive/general questions make me feel like I'm wasting your time. I really do want to help - and I love challenges. If you feel like a specific branding approach, or tactic is not working - give me details. If you're frustrated at branding/marketing because you feel like it's not working, explain - let's have THAT conversation. If you're upset at the budget constraints your under, or if you have ideas that are going unrecognized, share the goal, your perspective, and your frustration with me - I promise, you won't overload me or be asking too much. Rather, you'll engage me to really grapple with you and provide you with something of value for where you are right now. - Rebecca Tall Brown
How can they help. - Armand King
We're often so quick to want to learn more about who people are in relations to what they do - especially when we're thinking of how they might connect to our work, organization, etc. As a result, I do still appreciate the "small talk" in learning about people's backgrounds, passions, experiences/involvements in San Diego, and more. - Kent Lee