How event organisers can help the reluctant networker
One simple step to make an event better for everyone
Entering an event can be daunting for anyone, especially as a reluctant networker. Event organisers can help overcome this issue.
I have had 6 weeks of intensive networking in different international locations. I've also run workshops on networking to both large and small groups. One common concern from introverted personalities, men and women alike - but more frequently women, is the fear of entering a room and seeing an ocean of people chatting. All conveyed a feeling of isolation and nervousness taking those first steps. But although there are strategies, individuals can learn to overcome the fears of the reluctant networker, there is one thing that organisers can do. They can hire or use employees in the role of "official greeters."
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Helping the reluctant networker
One event I attended was a corporate cocktail party at an up scale address in Dubai overlooking the famous fountains. I happened to be positioned by one of the staircases where guests would enter the main area of the party. I watched one reluctant networker after another hesitate at the bottom, blanche, visibly drawing breath, before entering the fray and heading for the bar. Smart move! I was a guest, so it probably wasn't appropriate to take the initiative and make them feel at home.
At another event in Amsterdam I saw people standing on their own looking and probably feeling very uncomfortable and isolated. Here I was the presenter so went up to the individuals, introduced myself and walked with them to a table of people who had already formed a group. It only took a few minutes and is very effective. In a Brussels networking workshop, 50% of the room described themselves as introverted and said making that first move to enter the room was the hardest and put many of the participants off going at all.
Male coded events
It is especially difficult when the reluctant networker is a woman and the event is male dominated. And frequently they are, especially if the guest list is composed of senior players in any sector, where there are almost always more men than women. To walk into a room to a wall of grey and blue suits can be especially daunting. Having greeters who can ask the guest if she knows anyone and accompany her to a group of people to make an introduction will help her feel at ease. This will go a long way to breaking the ice and boosting the success of all events.
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