Eight networking tips for shy business owners

Shy woman, hiding behind hands

Follow these tips to overcome any shyness that’s stopping you from being a master networker.

I had the privilege of attending the Western Australia Telstra Business Awards recently and it was interesting to observe some of the networking tactics. What a great night!

To some, networking comes naturally and easily – but if you’re a bit shy about it, read on.

Remember, networking is one of the most effective ways of creating and maintaining relationships that could result in new business leads, loyal customers, potential business partnerships and more. Follow these tips and you’ll be collecting business cards in no time, one of the first steps in successful networking.

1. Remember, other guests are there to network too

Don’t feel like you’re interrupting or being a nuisance. 9 times out of 10, guests are there to meet new people too, in the hope of expanding their business network. And many will be just as apprehensive as you are about approaching others.

2. One step at a time

If the idea of approaching people you don’t know intimidates you, start by looking for a familiar face such as a colleague, client etc. If you don’t recognise anyone, then start with approaching an individual or small group of guests and introduce yourself. Take a deep breath, smile, make eye contact and say hello. In a small group situation, introduce yourself to one or two of the people in the group first as this can help you join the rest of the group conversation.

3.Don’t pretend to take or make a fake phone call! 

If you’re tempted to deal with daunting networking situations, think twice about turning to your phone for comfort. I saw this happen at another event – it’s obvious. The vast majority of people at an event will welcome others into their circle for a chat.

4Stop checking your mobile every minute

I know it’s hard but doing this can make it seem like you’re not approachable. Limit this as much as possible unless you’re looking to contact a friend/colleague attending the same event. Precious networking time – time when you could be growing your business – is being wasted by this avoidance tactic.

5. Just be yourself

If you’re not comfortable telling jokes, then don’t. Just be yourself. It’s ok to simply listen to the conversation until you feel comfortable enough to give your two cents worth at an appropriate time.

6. Listen, ask questions

Asking questions of other people will see them open up to you. You may find that you have a lot in common with them. Listen for any information that enables you to help them or even your business e.g. if they’re looking for a service that you provide. Asking questions of others should also encourage them to ask questions of you, which is particularly handy if you’re a bit shy about talking about yourself. This will then give you an opportunity to talk about your company/business, your role, what it involves, what interests you outside of work etc.

7. Work the room

It’s easy to spend time with just one person the entire event but don’t if you want to meet new people and potential clients. A handy tip when it’s time to move on is to say something like “I hope you don’t mind but I have a couple of other people I’d like to meet before this session/event/function ends. Thanks for your time, I enjoyed meeting you. Here’s my business card if you would like to stay in touch…”

8. Swap business cards

And don’t forget to bring your own ones. Especially if there are door prizes at the event!  LinkedIn is also a popular way to connect with people after successful networking.

  • Thanks for sharing these very useful tips! I will keep in the mind the ones about business cards, as I am in the middle of making my own set of cards 🙂

    • Angely

      You’re welcome Chris! And good to hear about the business cards 🙂

  • There’s a great application called Beepmo that allows you to browse the LinkedIn profiles of people nearby, see their picture and – particularly for networking – view a list of how many people, groups, companies etc that you have in common, a great way to break the ice at a networking event.

    Beepmo is available on the iOS appstore and soon for Android.

    • Thanks Mark! I’ll give Beepmo a go next time 🙂

  • Great insight. I use to be that shy individual and had to leave my home-based business for awhile. After networking, with some AMAZING people while doing my volunteer work in my community, I’m not as shy. Thanks again for sharing.

  • Angely

    Thanks for sharing Felicia! Great that you are no longer shy when it comes to networking.

  • There is a great article about how to handle those tricky first 30 seconds when you are networking have a look at http://www.simplelifeformulas.com/2012/07/cia-beats-fbi.html

  • What a great article – so much common sense and the tips about the phone are great. Networking events need to be treated as any other business appointment – making a call or taking a call with a potential client – even an existing client – would be a no no – the same for networking events. As many people say i t is net working not net eating, net drinking and not net checking my mobile!

  • I think most small business owners understand the important and mutually beneficial business relationships that can evolve from networking. However, networking can be an intimidating part of business, especially if you are more of an introvert. It’s best to take the pressure off yourself by focusing on others and what you and your business can do for them.