This post was published earlier on LinkedIn

This is 1 of a 3 article series about Networking.

Approaching a complete stranger at a networking event is always scary when one isn’t used to it. If you are like myself, you may have thoughts run through your head like:

  • “He/She doesn’t look friendly”
  • “What if he/she doesn’t smile back?”
  • “What if they feel I am bothering them?”

Let’s keep in mind that we are in a completely controlled setting. This is not like talking to random strangers on a street.You are at an event where networking is expected so let’s change your mindset accordingly.

Instead of programming yourself for rejection, inject a positive scenario.

Easier said than done?

On your next networking opportunity use the steps below and watch networking get easier.

1) Visualize a positive outcome This is really important. Take your time if you need to, but put an image in your head of you and the stranger getting along fabulously

2) SMILE, SMILE, SMILE A smile is non-threatening and does so much to put people at ease. Ask yourself, what facial expressions would you like from someone who is approaching you? I bet a smile would be high on that list.

3) Make eye contact Don’t stare. Just have that relaxed look, while you think: I am looking at you and want to share a moment together as mutual friends in a room full of strangers.

4) Extend your hand It doesn’t have to be some kind of power-move, with your hand on top. Make sure it is a normal (vertical), firm handshake that says: I am comfortable with who I am and I’d like to get to know you. Let’s chat.

5) Introduce yourself.
Your name and little bit about yourself, expressed in a relaxed and casual tone. For extra points, follow-up with a random question that turns focus to the stranger.

Here are some examples:

  • “Hi, I am Francis and I had a real long day, today. How was yours?”
  • “My name is Bob and I noticed your sneakers. Those are some neat colors. Where did you find them?”
  • “Are you feeling awkward too? I am Jane and I’m always nervous at these things. How about you?”
  • “Hi nice meeting you. I am Taylor. What brings you here today?”

Remember to everyone else in the room, you are the stranger and others at the venue are just as nervous, awkward feeling and uncomfortable as you.

In fact, you may soon find that approaching people who are standing alone is easy because they are usually happy to meet someone that notices them. Many people are hoping that someone else will make the initial approach. Not only is it appropriate that you approach strangers, but it is most likely that it will be really appreciated.

Many of us regularly attend networking events but truth to be told, few of us actually take the time to study or practice effective networking. Networking is really about relaxing and being able to make others feel you are relaxed. It is about demonstrating that you are ok with who you are, that you like people, and you don’t mind spending time with them. You will find that your confidence will attract others and help you become much more than ‘just another business card.’

Like anything else when practiced, we become better over time. As you become better at starting conversations with strangers, you will find yourself less anxious and nervous. So:

1) Visualize a positive outcome 2) SMILE 3) Make eye contact 4) Extend your hand 5) Introduce yourself.

For additional tips, you may find this link useful: (with pics)

I hope this article was useful. Hopefully it can give you further ideas on how to improve your networking skills. Let me know if you have any questions in the comments section below.

After practicing this networking tip, check out the next article: “How to Approach 2-3 People at a Networking Event— Networking Quick Tip 2”

PS. I love sharing what I know that could possibly help others, so let me know if you have any specific topics you want addressed on Networking.