The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that nearly 40 million Americans suffer from an anxiety disorder. The anxiety disorder spectrum includes post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and social anxiety disorder among others. Regardless of which specific anxiety disorder you have, anxiety cripples daily activities, particularly social activities.
On the other hand, networking is important in both your business and personal life. Even though the social aspect may be unpleasant, life's all about overcoming your adversity in order to be successful in a number of spaces.
The Key to Networking: Confidence
Confidence is the best tool to combat anxiety, and that is true even in the networking scene. When you have anxiety, confidence can be difficult to obtain, but there are a few things that you can do to cover your bases and feel the best you can.
1. Do your research
Research the networking event to ease any concerns and boost your confidence:
- Research the event space itself. Plan ahead for parking, traffic, etc. so that is not a concern on the day of the networking event. The less you have on your mind, the less frantic you'll be.
- Learn about the people who are attending the event. Whether it's prospective employers, potential colleagues or an audience of your ideal clients, be prepared with a strategy that you can execute without feeling ill-equipped.
Fear of embarrassment is often a crippling symptom for those with social anxiety . Therefore, introductions, elevator speeches, and pitches can be nerve-racking, but breaking the ice doesn’t need to be so bad. Practicing ice breakers or short introductions in the mirror can help ease anxiety. Take it a step further and practice your posture. The European Journal of Social Psychology released a study linking proper posture with increased self-esteem. Practice these things and you will conquer your networking event with smooth ice breakers and a poised posture.
3. Dress for success
Studies continue to show the connection between clothing and mental attitudes. The choice of clothing for a networking event can dramatically affect your confidence levels and therefore performance. If possible, find out what the requested dress code is ahead of time; underdressing is a surefire way to increase anxiety. Other clothing tips to help combat anxiety:
- Worried about sweating? Wear black or a pattern/color that doesn’t show sweat.
- Wear layers: If you’re flushed or hot, simply remove a layer.
4. Find a networking buddy
Anxiety-sufferers, especially those with social anxiety disorders, understand that social situations trigger stress and/or panic attacks. Finding a networking buddy is a great way to help reduce some of those anxious feelings. Perks of networking buddy:
- You'll be less anxious because you already know someone at the event.
- It’s easier to start conversations with strangers if you and a friend are already talking.
- Less chance for lulls in conversations with new people.
5. Have pride in marketing materials and personal branding
Business cards and other marketing materials, a staple at networking events, have the potential to be powerful marketing tools. The effectiveness of your branding depends on how much effort you put into the design. When you have pride in your marketing materials, your business will appear more professional and you will feel more assured of yourself and your business.
The key to conquering networking with anxiety is boosting your overall levels of confidence. Follow the above tips, and you’ll be sure to rock your next networking event.