Does going to a networking event make your palms sweat? Is your stomach in knots as you walk up to the door? Are you terrified that you’ll forget the name of your business or even your own name?

You’re not alone. Many people dread networking, but know it’s a valuable way to build professional connections. If you’re one of those who dread networking, there’s hope. Here are some easy networking tips to help you build confidence, even if you hate networking.


Think about what you have to give

If networking just feels shamelessly self-promotional, try thinking about how you can help other people rather than what you hope to gain. Obviously you want more contacts and more business, but how can you help other people do the same? Can you recommend a service they need, connect them with a potential new employee, or give them advice on a nagging business problem?

Instead of focusing on getting the business card, think about what you can give to each person you speak with. You’ll both feel better about the interaction…and will probably make more sales too.


Practice your pitch

If a fear of public speaking has you shaking in your boots, practice your pitch ahead of time. Say it out loud in the mirror until it stops feeling silly. Recite it to your coworkers or your employees. Make your spouse listen to it until they ask you to take out the trash.

Practicing can take a lot of the fear factor out of talking about yourself. If you need more practice, try joining a club like Toastmasters or working with a coach.


Find different networking groups

Some networking groups are formal and structured. Others are relaxed and casual. Some are full of bankers and executives, others are full of designers and real estate agents. If you hate networking, you might just be going to the wrong events for you.

Look for events that are a good fit for your style. If it’s time to shake up your networking routine, check out these local networking groups in Hampton Roads.


Network online

In-person networking can do wonders for your business, but it’s not the only way to get things done. Online networking sites like LinkedIn can help you connect with fellow business owners without the awkward getting-to-know-you talk.

Set up a profile and start connecting with people who might benefit from knowing your business. Just remember that a connection is a relationship, get to know the person a little first so you can understand their business needs before you make the pitch.


Bring a friend

You’re at the networking event to meet new people, but sometimes having a friendly face around can make all the difference. If you’re going to an event where you don’t know anyone, try to find someone you do know who would be willing to attend as your business wingman.

Jackie Gilmartin, owner of College Park Executive Suites, loves attending networking events in Hampton Roads. If she can’t go with you, she can probably introduce you to someone who will be there. All you have to do is ask.