In the world of business, if you want to gain brand recognition, learn more about your industry, develop business relationships, or even track down new leads for future opportunities, networking is the most effective solution. Yet, for some entrepreneurs, the idea of being in a room full of strangers and striking up conversations is scary. In fact, the very thought of it makes you anxious. You know it’s something you must get past but when you suffer from social anxiety it seems like an enormous mountain to climb.
What is Social Anxiety?
Social anxiety disorder or social phobia is best defined as the feeling of intense fear or panic when in social settings. The fear often comes from being afraid of being judged, analyzed negatively, or rejected. Though lots of people get nervous in unfamiliar social settings, for someone who suffers from social anxiety, the fear is crippling. They might experience symptoms that include rapid heart rate, sweating, stuttered speech, difficulty breathing, and in some cases may even experience a panic attack.
Not wanting to feel these physical effects they often try to avoid social scenes altogether. For someone who runs a business and needs to effectively network, this could create a huge problem.
Getting Past the Fear
So, how can a business owner who struggles with social anxiety get past their fears and network like a boss? There are a few things you can try listed below:
Prepare in Advance
Though you don’t want to sound like a robot or pre-recorded message at the networking event, having a general idea of what you’re going to say can erase some of those fears. Jot down a few lines about yourself and your business. You can even do some research online to find conversation starters for business networking. Practice these lines and conversations regularly so that it feels natural by the time you arrive at the event.
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Dress the Part
Believe it or not, your appearance can change the way you feel in a social environment. When you’re not dressed in something that makes you feel confident, you’re constantly worrying that others are laughing at you or talking about you in a negative manner. So, be sure to dress the part by picking out your favorite business attire from the top and bottom to the accessories and shoes so you feel good on the outside.
Bring a Friend
If you are really apprehensive about an upcoming networking event, ask someone you’re comfortable with to tag along. This can be a friend, employee, or fellow entrepreneur. Try to make it someone who is aware of your social anxiety that is also pretty outgoing. They will not only be able to sense when you’re getting anxious but will have no problem breaking the ice or stepping in to help you out. It also helps to ease any fears you have when there’s someone you know just a few steps away at all times.
Print Marketing Materials
Honestly, if you’re not prepared to have long, drawn-out conversations with people just yet, there are other ways to break things up. Bring some of your marketing materials along with you. This can include business cards, brochures, flyers, or promotional products like pens and calendars. This way, you can simply introduce yourself to other business professionals or potential clients and provide them with your marketing materials. These items will speak for you long after you’re gone.
Networking creates an opportunity for you to take your brand to new heights. As essential as it is to network in business, when your heart rate jumps at the mere thought of mixing and mingling with strangers, it can make it very difficult for you to do your job. Though it can take some time and practice to fully get past your social phobias, the above-mentioned suggestions can definitely take the edge off and allow you to network like a boss.
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