- Use the Buddy System. Ask one of your more experienced or outgoing networking friends to accompany you to an event. They break the ice for you and give you the opportunity to watch and emulate their networking techniques. Just make sure they don't get carried away and leave you behind.
- Plan Ahead. Research the event, find out who's attending, and ask the host about the agenda. Knowing what to expect goes a very long way toward helping you feel comfortable in a new situation.
- Take Small Steps. Start out small. Don't expect to change habits of many years in one networking event. Luncheons, speed networking, and trade shows are all events where there is networking, but it's in small doses even within a larger event.
- Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway. The classic self-help novel by Susan Jeffers provides wonderful advice and strategies for any situation that causes you to feel fear. Her first and most important point is that you'll never get rid of the fear of doing something by waiting. Fear does not magically go away on its own unless there's an underlying medical or psychological condition that you're getting treated for. Even so, many treatments for phobias include careful exposure to what the person fears.
Expanding Your Comfort Zone
How do you expand your comfort zone? Unless you're a member of the Polar Bear Club, you probably want to ease into a new situation. Networ king is an activity that can create a lot of anxiety. Here are several tips for expanding your comfort zone without feeling like you're about to jump into a frozen lake.