By Andy Lopata, Business Networking Strategist

Mr. Darcy: "I... do not have the talent of conversing easily with people I have never met before."
Elizabeth Bennet: "Perhaps you should take your aunt's advice and practice?"

~ Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen

For many people, the greatest challenge with networking is their fear of approaching people they don't know at networking events. The thought of having to initiate a conversation with someone they have never met before fills them with dread and they either hide in their comfort zone by speaking with someone they already know, or avoid the event altogether.

In my book '...and Death Came Third!', I covered a range of ideas to help people to overcome this fear. I looked at how to rationalise the fear; focus on approaching individuals or open groups, rather than couples; get to the event early; act as the host and a range of other ideas.

All good ideas in theory, but only of true value if you put them into practice. Ultimately, the way to overcome the fear is to consistently address it until easing your way around the room becomes habit.

By attending a number of networks, be they breakfast meetings, lunch networks or evening events, you will become more confident and more at ease. And always challenge yourself to move out of your comfort zone, gravitate away from the people you already know and speak to strangers.
If you struggle with the thought of approaching strangers, set yourself a goal the next time you network. Start by approaching up to three strangers during the event, the next time five, the next time seven. Soon you will find that the fear, while it might not necessarily have disappeared completely, will be something you can rationalise and manage.

After all, as Mr. Darcy was to find out, practice makes...comfortable.

To find out more about how to pick the right networks, implement a successful networking strategy or how to generate more referrals, please visit our website www.lopata.co.uk or contact us at harvey@lopata.co.uk / 01992 450488.

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