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How to Network Without Feeling Nervous

The simple secret for authentic connections.

Imagine yourself about to walk into a large room filled with people you don’t know.

Let’s say it’s a networking event and for the next hour or so, you’re going to meet with strangers (ack!) as a way to help you grow your business.

Shaking in your Manolo Blahnik’s yet?

Just the idea of networking can freak people out.

Here’s why.

It’s natural, as human beings, to want to belong. It’s deep in our DNA to want to be accepted by the pack because that literally means survival.

So when walking into a group of strangers, it’s easy to get wrapped up in our own fears, anxiety, thoughts, and imagination.

Which is exactly the wrong way to network.

For example, if I’m worried that I’m dressed wrong, my voice sounds squeaky, I wore the wrong pants, didn’t have my nails done, or if I have lipstick on my teeth, I can’t possible focus on what the other person is saying.

Which means I’m not networking, I’m obsessing.

So let’s do this instead.

Reframe and rename “networking” — let’s call it “connecting others for fun and profit.”

Your mission is to meet and deeply connect with just two people.

No elevator speeches, no running around handing out a bunch of business cards, no lump in your throat when someone asks what you do.

Just curiosity and wonder.

What’s the first step?

Find two different people who seem as uncomfortable as you. Shouldn’t be hard, right?

Walk up to each and say, “Hi, I’m [name], how has your day been going?”

They’ll likely respond with honesty, a little humor, and great relief. Then say, “tell me a little about your business.”

Let them talk and then ask a forward-focused question — one that helps the other person describe specifically who their ideal client is and focus on what they need.

Forward-focused questions position you as a connector and leave others with a positive impression of you.

Here are a few that work very well.

  1. “Who specifically should I refer you to?”
  2. “Who would you like me to introduce you to?”
  3. “Who would you like to meet in the next thirty days?”
  4. “What are you looking for in the next thirty days?”

How they answer any of these questions allows you to spin your mental rolodex and determine if there is someone you can introduce them to.

This is the goal of an expert networker — to connect the new people you meet with the people you know.

That’s it.

You are not there to do business with the people you meet.

When you approach networking as a place to connect other people, it will become a lot more fun. When you assume no one in the room is a potential new client, you will make better connections.

It alleviates the stress of trying to sell yourself.

Let’s be honest, it’s not likely your ideal client is in that room. But the people you meet in that room all know someone who would be your ideal client.

Connect them with the people you know who can help them, and they’ll do the same.

The next day.

Follow up with each of your new connections by sending an email and an invitation to connect on LinkedIn. You could even include a link to article online they might find valuable.

Then send an email to someone you know you think this new person should meet and include a link to the new person’s website or online profile.

Follow up with your new connection in about a month to see if they found what they were looking for.

Now look at that, you’re great at networking and didn’t even know it!

Dr. Ann Vertel is a leadership speaker, human behavior expert, and 20-year Naval Officer. She helps leaders “UnBully” their workforce and build high-performing organizations using the power of positive leadership. Learn more at

Originally published at

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