Whether you’re an experienced business owner or a new entrepreneur, walking into a networking event can make anyone feel uneasy. But how do you get over those nerves and ensure you make the most out of any networking event? Just follow these tips from Robert Herjavec:

Wake up early

What’s the first step to having a great time at a networking event? Easy – wake up early the day of the event. Whether you want to practice your elevator pitch, make sure you have your business cards ready, do additional research on the event itself, or even pick out what to wear, you’ll have more time to do so if you wake up early. “I always wake up early in the morning,” says Robert. It allows you to prepare everything you need and it also allows you to leave for the event early. While it isn’t necessary to arrive hours before the event even begins, make sure you prepare for unfortunate events like missing your cab or sitting in traffic. Remember that regardless of your excuse, being late is never acceptable, so waking up early is the first step to a great day.

Dress for success

We’ve all heard the advice ‘dress for success’, and this holds particularly true when it comes to networking events. First impressions matter! What you’re wearing can be one of the first things people notice about you, so it only makes sense to be conscious of the outfit you’re wearing. “Have you ever encountered a corporate lawyer dressed in Levis and sneakers while at the office? Not likely,” Robert points out. Don’t worry – You don’t need designer brands or personally tailored clothing to make a good impression. Just pick out clean, well-fitting, and professional pieces for your event, and keep the dress code in mind. Dress for the occasion and you’ll look great!

Practice talking to strangers

For some lucky people, talking to strangers comes easily and naturally – conversations flow and connections are made. However, this isn’t the case for the majority of people out there, and that’s perfectly okay. Just remember that talking to strangers gets easier with time, so try to start practicing before you even get to the event if you can. “Wherever I go and whatever I’m doing, I look forward to meeting people. I want to learn about them, and I take a serious interest in things they say and do,” says Robert. It may be difficult at first, but practice makes perfect! The more you can make an effort to do this in casual, social situations (e.g. at a coffee shop, a friend’s birthday party, or even the grocery store), the easier it will be for you to do in professional situations.

Ask questions

If you’re feeling a little awkward or are unsure of what to say when you’re chatting with someone at the event, try asking them a question or two. The majority of people love to talk about themselves, and asking them questions gives them the opportunity to do so while also taking the pressure off of you to carry the conversation. It also allows you to learn more about them. “I learn about people by asking questions, something that those who know me well often comment about. I have always had a thirst for learning and a curiosity about facts and people,” says Robert. Try to mirror Robert’s curiosity by asking questions about things that genuinely interest you, and be sure to use a pleasant tone and act friendly when asking. “It’s not just about the questions you ask. It’s also about how you ask them,” Robert reminds us.

Be yourself

When you’re nervous, it can be easy to put on a show instead of being your true self. However, it isn’t a good idea. “Trying to be someone you are not – someone you think the other person wants you to be – takes a lot of effort,” says Robert. If you’re busy obsessing and trying to impress everyone, you won’t have any energy left to actually learn anything or make any genuine connections at the event. Plus, people can usually sense when you’re not being authentic, and they’ll usually feel uneasy around you as a result.  Therefore, being yourself – even if you feel like it’s nerve-wracking – is a must if you want to make the most out of a networking event. “We cannot expect others to respect us if we do not respect ourselves, and that includes accepting who we are,” Robert says. 

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