Have you ever been on your way to an event and felt yourself hesitate? Had the thought, “Shall I walk into that crowded room—or leave before anyone realizes I’m here?” If so, you’re not alone. Probably 50 percent of the population feels shy much of the time, and many others at least half the time. Under certain circumstances, practically everyone will feel shy, reticent or introverted.

At the same time, it’s important to remember that visibility is a key component of success in networking. Networking is about making connections, building relationships and developing advocates who can help us feel more comfortable and, more importantly, whom we can also help.

Here are some tips on how you can head into any group of people, even when you are feeling less than enthusiastic about racing out the door:

1. Set Goals to Expand or Nurture Your Network

2. Take Baby Steps

Networking goals are easier to achieve when you break them down into smaller goals. For instance, if the idea of going to a networking event is intimidating, take it step by step.

When you meet someone new, establish eye contact, smile, say hello and repeat the person’s name. Next, ask an open-ended question (one that doesn’t have a simple yes-or-no answer) and listen to the person’s response.

Two questions I always ask people I meet are: “What is your preferred method of communication?” in other words, do they prefer e-mail or phone, and, “How do I know when I am speaking to someone you might want to meet or talk with?” Both questions can help build rapport.

3. Begin with a Compliment

A wonderful way to start a conversation is by saying something complimentary about the other person. Compliment someone on an achievement or accomplishment. Starting a dialogue this way is easy, and everyone likes to get a compliment, as long as it is sincere and emphasizes a personal strength.

4. Use a Script

If calling to follow up with a new contact makes you a bit nervous, developing a short script will help you build confidence. First, write down key points and rehearse them until they come naturally. Refer to whatever notes you’ve made about the person; if you haven’t made any, jot some down now. After you’ve done this a few times, these calls will start to feel easier, and eventually they will become second nature. I call this “doing my homework” before the call. I have even created a basic template to use and have it handy for each new contact I call.

5. Network at That Time of Day When Your Energy Level Is at Its Highest

If possible, set up meetings, make phone calls and attend events during your high-energy time. If you’re a morning person who has to attend an event in the evening, pace yourself during the day to conserve your energy for later when you will need it. You will feel better and you will also be able to network and connect more easily when you are feeling at the top of your game.

6. Set a Time Limit

When you go to an event, say to yourself, “I’ll go to the meeting for one hour—and then I can go back home and relax.” Then you’ll be able to successfully gather your energy for an hour.

You can use the same tactic in making calls, too. Decide how much time you’ll give to a task, then stick to it. You’ll find yourself energized for the next time the task comes around. You will also be much more productive.

7. Use Your Strengths

If you are a quiet person and not an extrovert by nature, congratulations! Quieter people generally spend more time listening and less time talking. As a good listener, you’ll be able to remember details about other people and use this to make contacts.

For instance, when you meet someone for the first time and take in information about him during a conversation, the next time you meet that person you can mention something that you remembered.

Networking is about creating long-lasting, mutually beneficial relationships. It is important to remember that everybody can do it and that there is more than one correct way to network. You can develop and follow a process that fits your personality and comfort level. By building upon your strengths, you will become more and more effective.

ANDREA NIERENBERG is a speaker, consultant and author of
Nonstop Networking: How to Improve Your Life, Luck and Career;
Million Dollar Networking: The Sure Way to Find, Grow and
Keep Your Business;and Savvy Networking:118 Tips for Business Success