Networking is hard for everyone. It’s even harder when you’re shy. But shyness and introversion, while very reasonable explanations for why you might be frightened in social situations, aren’t going to cut it as excuses.
Here are five things you can do to make yourself more comfortable getting out there, opening up a bit, and knowing what to say during those awkward pauses in conversations with people you don’t know.
1. Fake fearlessness
Stride on up to someone, introduce yourself, and then put the ball back in their court. People love talking about themselves. A simple “What do you do?” can take the conversational heat off you entirely, at least until you get your bearings.
2. Read up
The more well-versed you are in current events and business news, and even what’s hot on the bestseller shelves, the easier you’ll be able to stay fluent while conversing. You’ll always have something interesting to contribute, and you’ll give people a wide range things to say to keep the ball rolling.
3. Ask for a second
There’s only so much you can accomplish while mingling in a crowded room. If this is a good contact for you, or you’ve hit it off particularly well, consider asking your interlocutor to chat over coffee somewhere more relaxed instead.
4. Follow up
Within 24 hours, dig that card out of your purse and follow up. An email or a handwritten note (even better) can really distinguish you, and ensure that you’ve made—and maintained—a connection. (Victory!)
5. Know when to fold ‘em
Sometimes two people just don’t have the kind of conversational chemistry required to hit it off. If you can tell it’s crashing and burning, excuse yourself. A simple “If you’ll excuse me,” or “Well, I won’t keep you” will often do the trick.
Remember, you’re shy, you’re not a leper. Take care of yourself in social situations, get your connections made, then go home and relax knowing you’ve done your work.