I hate being asked to “network” in a big crowded room. Yet it’s the most popular way for you to make friends and contacts. I am and have always been a pretty shy person. Yet I found that good things come to those who put on their big girl pants and just network. If you love networking, skip below to the pretty pictures. If not, we’re in this together. Because it all boils down to the fact that sometimes being in an uncomfortable situation can pay off. Networking is how I’ve basically gotten every job (ugh, networking) and made new friends (hey ladies!) and been able to do some cool things. When you hate networking and being the center of attention, you need something to help you. That’s when having a standout style that speaks for you is essential. So I figured out one simple rule to help you network in style.
The one simple rule to help you create standout style for networking is focusing on a special piece.
When I put together this outfit last Sunday for the PHLBloggers Blog Connect conference, I wanted to be comfortable. Conferences involve a lot of sitting, standing, and juggling things like pens, notebooks, and sometimes wine glasses. My first impulse was something simple: black, white, gray. Then something streamlined like skinny jeans and a simple blouse. But that’s boring. That’s blending in. When you’re going to put yourself out there, you need an outfit that will help you. That one special piece will get people to talk to you. Once you get people talking you, you’re halfway there with networking!
Creating standout style doesn’t have to be loud or uncomfortable.
This bell sleeve shirt is SO simple but I kid you not that I got roped into at least 5 conversations about them. It all started with: “Oh my god, I just love those sleeves!” The simple ruffle bell sleeve is simple and fun. Then all I had to do was pair it with my most comfortable boyfriend jeans and a pair of heels (because I’m a professional style blogger after all) and there you have it.
Now that you’ve captured them with your standout style, what do you do next?
The easiest way to keep the conversation flowing is have something you want to talk about. At the PHLBloggers conference, my next line related to the presenter we just saw. You can also connect it to why you came to the conference, whether it’s to improve your practice or learn more about something or just to get out of your shell. Guess what? You can repeat your choice topic with every new person you meet! Don’t reinvent the wheel; just be nice and keep it simple. I like to think of networking as speed dating: keep it nice and calm and don’t get too personal. Sharing pictures of your adorable dog is okay but professing your undying love for #hotdad Bill Pullman might be too much. In other words, read your audience.
You’ve charmed the crowds with your standout style and your witty banter. Go home, apply a face mask, and queue up Gossip Girl or…
What I’m always guilty of post-conference is forgetting about the follow-up. You may have charmed your way into some hearts but if you don’t reach out to them afterwards, it’s useless. At last year’s Blog Connect conference, I exchanged tons of business cards with awesome bloggers. There were a few I had known before going to conference and already knew on social. A few others I connected with through the hashtag on instagram and twitter. But for nearly half of them, I didn’t do anything. Chatting it up with new people is great but real networking means following up in the days and weeks after. That’s when real partnerships and friendships begin. Oh, and you can follow up while wearing a face mask. Been there, done that.
Do you have any tips to help the shy become networking stars?