8 easy ways to bolster your networking skills

Don’t let fear or shyness prevent you from establishing meaningful connections. Prepare relevant topics, break the ice on social media, and lend a listening ear.

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For many people, the mere mention of networking brings on a cold sweat.

Speaking to people you don’t know. Shaking hands. Worrying you’ll be out of your depth. How do you start up a conversation with a stranger, anyway?

It doesn’t matter if you’re a hardcore introvert, socially awkward or just plain shy. If you want to succeed in business, you can—and must—learn to network.

Keep these eight tips in mind as you prepare for your next networking opportunity:

1. Remind yourself that you’re not alone.

Arriving at a big event can feel lonely—perhaps a bit like high school all over again. You might think everyone around you looks more comfortable, confident and “worthy” to be there, but most people are experiencing emotions similar to yours.

Regardless of the conference or the setting, plenty of people will be anxious, nervous or perhaps dreading the whole affair. Some will be hoping someone will approach them and start a conversation. If you see someone standing or sitting alone, why not introduce yourself?

If you are arriving with friends or colleagues, be brave: Separate and mingle. You’ll get much more out of the event if you make a point to forge new connections.

2. Prepare some topics you want to chat about.

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