Networking events can be a struggle for those who consider themselves socially awkward. But the alternative—avoiding meeting new people—could be detrimental to achieving your career goals. The legendary Beyoncé, far from socially awkward, could certainly teach a thing or two about how to work a crowd. With these Beyhive-approved steps, even the most shy and awkward among us might be able to master the networking arena and become a schmoozing professional.
1. Building your confidence is one of the most important ways you can prepare for a networking event, and King Bey is the ultimate inspiration for confidence. Not “Yoncé” enough yet? That’s nothing a pep talk or two in the mirror with “Flawless” won’t be able to fix.
2. If you’re going to a networking event, study the key players who will be there. Knowing the professional moves they’ve made can be an impressive conversation starter.
3. Clean up your social media bio before you network. People will try to find you on Twitter and other networks, and you want them to take you seriously. Your social bios should be short, sweet and professional: Hashtags and links are acceptable, but save the extended info for your LinkedIn page.
4. Be comfortable—but use your good judgment on this one. Wear one of your favorite appropriate pieces to boost your confidence and possibly win some compliments. Keep it classy, and stay away from gaudy items; it’s not quite the time for a “Freakum Dress.”
5. If big crowds make you nervous, what better way to overcome that than by showing up early? You’ll make a good first impression on other early arrivers, who just might be the key players you need to get to know.
6. If you can, bring a more Beyoncé-like friend as your wingman. Maybe this person can guide you through uncomfortable situations. You may even want to coordinate a distress signal to let him or her know when you aren’t sure how Houston’s Creole goddess would handle an awkward situation.
7. Feel out the vibe of the venue, and when you’re ready to mingle, find other people who may be nervous—or flying solo—and start a conversation.
8. Scrolling through your Instagram feed and texting your bae are great ways to cop out of being social, so you should avoid looking at your phone while networking. The key is to stay engaged with the people around you.
9. Be yourself. Beyoncé doesn’t try to be Kelly or Michelle. Don’t force anything that doesn’t feel natural to you (unless it’s being like Beyoncé—force that by any means necessary).
10. Share your passion. That’s why you’re at the networking event in the first place, right? Bring your talents to the table and show your peers why you love the industry you aspire to conquer.
11. Don’t dwell on mistakes. People often think more about an embarrassing slipup than the things they did correctly. This is human nature, but not Beyoncé nature. Laugh at your own mistakes and move on.
12. Make mental notes of conversations you have. Find out what you have in common with others by listening to them and engaging with them. This will help establish good rapport with everyone you meet.
13. The main reason you’re at a networking event should be to create opportunities for yourself, but networking is a two-way street. Don’t forget what you have to offer, and take some pressure off yourself.
14. How you end a conversation is just as important as how you begin it. “Do you have a card so we can keep in touch?” “I look forward to our paths crossing again in the near future.” “It was my pleasure, but I don’t want to keep you from meeting other guests.” These are all appropriate ways to exit a conversation without an excruciatingly awkward ending.
15. Use your hashtags wisely. It’s OK to use hashtags in tweets to professionals as long as they relate to the conversation you had or event you attended, but tags like #MoneyGang, #GetBread and #WakeUpNow? Beyoncé would never, and neither should you.
16. Stay active on your social media sites. Your social networks add value to your brand, no matter what field you’re in. Not every single post or tweet has to be career-oriented, but remember that you never know who’s looking. How you’re perceived on social media can outweigh how you actually are in person (think Cooley’s looking-glass theory, revamped). Keep it classy, but retain what makes you human in your profile.
17. Put those business cards you’ve collected to good use and make the follow-up the ultimate priority. Whether it’s via email, a phone call or a handwritten note, be professional and mention a talking point or two that you remember from your conversation. Suggest continuing the conversation over coffee or tea.
18. For an instant connection, you can drop the person a quick mention on Twitter prior to sending an email. For example: “It was a pleasure meeting @JohnDoe at XYZ Afterwork Meet-Up. #AppropriateHashtag”
19. Never spam! Think about how you feel when a random rapper you don’t even follow sends you an unsolicited link to his mixtape in your mentions. That’s how others feel when you randomly send them links asking them to read your work, look at your website or watch your reel. Tact is the key in delivering your talents via social media, so you should build a relationship first. Let people know how you’ve noticed an initiative they’ve started or project they’re working on. They’re more likely to respond.
20. You’ve survived the battle of networking and come out victorious (hopefully). Beyoncé would be proud. Reward yourself with your favorite carb-filled goodies.
Taryn Finley is a summer intern at The Root. Follow her on Twitter.