Networking and seeking help from peers in your industry can be an intimidating prospect for many professionals. The fear and anxiety associated with networking can often hinder one’s ability to create meaningful connections.
Below, 14 Young Entrepreneur Council members share valuable tips and strategies to banish those networking fears and anxieties. With these tips, you will feel empowered to build strong industry relationships in the world of business with confidence, ease and success.
1. Treat Networking As An Opportunity To Learn
My approach to banishing fear and anxiety when making industry connections is to engage in networking as a genuine opportunity to learn and share. Instead of focusing solely on what you can gain, prioritize building authentic relationships. Listen actively, ask insightful questions and offer your expertise generously. This approach has always fostered meaningful connections for me, making networking a two-way street of mutual benefit. Remember, everyone has been a beginner at some point, and fostering a supportive community is vital to long-term success. – Renato Agrella, Acerca Consulting
2. Believe In Your Value
One of the best tips I can offer is to have a relational mindset instead of a transactional one. Many people approach networking thinking, “What can I get out of this?” Instead, shift your mindset to, “What can I offer?” or “How can I help this person?” When you believe you have value to give, it boosts your confidence. That value might be your unique perspective, experiences or even someone else in your network who might be a beneficial connection for the person you’re meeting. This reduces fear and anxiety while you make connections because you are approaching it from a value-producer standpoint instead of a value-consumer. – Chidambaram Bhat, Integral Technology Solutions, Inc.
3. Attend Formal Networking Events
Attending formal networking events can take some of the anxiety off the table because you can be confident that everyone is there for the same reason—to connect, learn, share and grow. Seeking these types of events out versus “cold calling” thought leaders in your industry can be a great way to ease in as it lets you practice and refine your networking skills with people who are undoubtedly amenable to it. Once you get comfortable engaging in these types of conversations and have developed a foundation, you can expand your networking efforts beyond these organized events. – Samuel Saxton, ConsumerRating.org
4. Be Persistent And Consistent
Just take the leap and send that message. The worst thing that can happen is that they won’t respond, which is totally fine. There are hundreds of leaders out there always willing to give out tips and free guidance. It’s all about being persistent and consistent. You can’t stop just because you message someone once and they didn’t respond. You have to remember that if they are a well-known leader in your industry, most likely their direct messages and emails are stacked with a bunch of inquiries. One tip that can get that certain person’s attention is to engage with all types of content that you can relate to. A simple like and a comment on their posts will definitely increase your chances of getting noticed. Turning on a notification for their content will definitely help you engage right away. – Fritz Colcol, Simply Thalia
5. Use Fear As A Motivator
Accept that fear is a natural part of networking. This will help ease you into getting comfortable with it. Understand that everyone has fear of some sort, and it’s okay to have fear—so run with it. Sometimes fear helps us to be more alert. Start with small steps and gradually increase your involvement even if you have fear. Your confidence will grow, and you’ll form meaningful connections. Be genuine, ask questions and listen actively. Remember, fear can be a powerful motivator. Embrace it, take those small steps and turn that fear into a driving force for meaningful connections and professional growth. – Meeky Hwang, Ndevr, Inc.
6. Be Authentic
Resist the urge to sell yourself or your business. Instead, be genuinely interested in your industry counterparts and learn from their stories of struggles and successes. Focus on them and your common interests and ideals. This way, you reduce the pressure of having to impress them and can gain their trust for future collaborations. When you are simply your passionate and curious self, your interactions will be more relaxed and your conversations will flow. Be authentic, as they will likely sense if you are simply there for your self-interests. Honesty and mutual respect will take you far. Acknowledge their expertise by asking for their opinions, and be open to their insights and suggestions. Be mindful of boundaries without being stiff. Have fun and be open, and you’ll have a good experience. – Bryce Welker, Accounting Institute of CPAs
7. Be Upfront About Making A Connection
You’ll have a better chance of making industry connections if you can plainly tell people who you are, what you need help with and how you hope to add value to their lives. Inboxes on LinkedIn are usually full of messages where people are beating around the bush just so they can attempt to sell something. If you want people to see your message as something different, make it known from the beginning that you’re not looking to sell a product or service; you just want to mutually connect with like-minded people. – John Turner, SeedProd LLC
8. Ask The Potential Connection For Help
Use the Ben Franklin effect. Ask someone in your industry a question or for advice. Believe me, most people love helping others, so you’ll likely get warm responses. The Ben Franklin effect is a cognitive bias that causes people to like someone after they do that person a favor. It’s named after Benjamin Franklin who, in his autobiography, describes how he asked his rival if he could borrow a book from his library. His rival agreed, and when Franklin returned the book later, he commented on how much he liked it, which led to a discussion and then a great friendship. You can use this approach in networking, especially if you’re nervous or unsure what to say. As Franklin says, “He that has once done you kindness will be more ready to do you another.” – Shu Saito, All Filters
9. Start Small And Practice
Networking is a skill, not an innate talent. Practice. Start by attending low-stakes events or participating in online forums. Set a tangible goal: “Today, I’ll introduce myself to three people.” Equip yourself with industry knowledge and current events. This gives you conversation starters. Finally, follow up. A simple “great meeting you” email or message solidifies connections. Consistency breeds confidence, and each interaction is a step closer to mastery. – Idan Waller, BlueThrone
10. Remember That You Have Nothing To Lose
To deal with fear or anxiety when reaching out to others for help or making connections in your respective industry, think about what you have to lose—absolutely nothing. In the worst-case scenario, your messages would either be unanswered or you would encounter rejection in a response. In either case, you have nothing to lose. So, don’t be afraid when contacting people in your respective industry. You won’t know what is going to happen unless you try anyway. So, do your best and be confident when establishing connections. – Stephanie Wells, Formidable Forms
11. Connect With People In Similar Situations
One of the best ways to calm anxiety when you want to make industry connections is to reach out to people who are in the same boat as you. It’s intimidating to contact someone with millions of customers when you’re working on securing your first 100 or 1,000. However, connecting with people living a similar experience is a great way to meet like-minded entrepreneurs, share ideas and get comfortable talking to others in a professional setting. – Daman Jeet Singh, FunnelKit
12. Use Storytelling Rather Than Formal Pitching
Banishing the fear and anxiety of making industry connections can be a game-changer for many budding entrepreneurs and marketers. Let me tip you off on a unique approach: To overcome networking anxiety, consider storytelling rather than formal pitching. This involves finding commonalities, sharing relatable experiences, displaying your expertise, using engaging visuals (if possible) and conducting thoughtful follow-ups. Storytelling on social platforms is a natural networking technique that I’ve personally found highly effective. So, use it wisely to create unique, memorable narratives that open doors for lasting professional relationships. – Vikas Agrawal, Infobrandz
13. Attend Networking Events With A Friend
Bring a friend or colleague to tag along when attending networking events. That way, you will not feel alone; you will naturally feel more confident knowing that there is somebody who has your back. When you don’t know anybody at an event, having a familiar person with you helps ease tension and anxiety. Two is always company, as others may be attracted to your little circle and may want to start a conversation. But ensure that you give your friend and yourself the space to mingle with others as individuals, identifying and exploring common interests yet coming together at moments to share and pool thoughts. Having a buddy also helps create accountability if you find yourself distracted from your focus when networking. – Brian David Crane, Spread Great Ideas
14. Research Potential Connections
Do your research. Before reaching out to professionals in your industry for help or growing your network, know about the people you’ll be contacting. Be familiar with their area of expertise, their interests, their vision and so on. This information will not only boost your confidence but will also help you come up with an excellent pitch. Since you’ve done your research, there’s a minimal chance of your query being rejected or hit with a rebuttal, and that may keep fear or anxiety to a bare minimum. – Jared Atchison, WPForms