Networking is an inevitable part of business. The fact is, you’ll eventually have to go to mixers and events, mingle with other company executives and representatives, and use some charming social skills to introduce yourself to potential new clients.

The thing is, we’re not all contestants on The Apprentice – we might have good ideas about business, but this doesn’t come hand-in-hand with sales or pitching gravitas. So how do those who are slightly more introverted, shy, or just dislike networking events entirely? Here are a few points to consider that will definitively help your networking ability:

  • Make sure time is on your side

There’s nothing worse than being late for something, and especially for high-pressure situations like job interviews or networking events. It will put you out of your usual “sync”, increase your blood pressure and make you flustered. Give yourself enough time to get to the venue, get ready, and turn up ready to talk.

  • Plan what you’re going to say

Again, something you would do for a job interview – but essential for avoiding awkward silences with potential clients. If you have a general list of 3-4 conversation topics, ways to “break the ice” and research the event as much as you can so you know who will be there and what is and isn’t appropriate to talk about.

  • Don’t be afraid to say “No”

It can be very easy to agree to go to every networking opportunity that comes your way, even if your time may be better spent having some time for yourself (and you didn’t fancy going to this particular event anyway). Allow yourself to be seen as trustworthy – that is to say, attend if you say you’re going. But if you don’t want to, say no. At least others will never question if a “yes” is actually a “maybe”, or that you’ll build a reputation as someone who backs out of things last minute.