Previously we discussed the advantages of building relationships with industry influencers. While networking comes naturally for some, it poses a significant challenge for others. Walking into a room full of strangers for the first time can be very intimidating. All of your confidence seems to melt away. But don’t despair; there are some surefire ways to avoid disaster.

Take a colleague with you.

It doesn’t have to be your best friend or spouse, just someone familiar. Just knowing that that there is one person there who knows you helps a lot. When you go in, don’t stick together like glue. Mingle separately and then, if you find yourself thinking “get me out of here,” just make your way over to your friend and check in. It should be enough to get you back on track.

Know what to say.

It sounds so simple but sometimes when you are standing in front of someone new and you’re feeling nervous, you might start stumbling over your words. The best thing you can do is come up with a well-scripted introductory speech about 30 seconds in length that succinctly describes exactly what you do, who your target customer is, and what sets you apart from your competition. Make sure it sounds fantastic.

Know who will be there.

Go to the place that advertised your networking event. See if you can find out who else will be attending. Do some research on the individuals who will be there. Do you think they may be potential clients? Look closely at their pictures so that you can recognize them in the crowd. Look on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and LinkedIn to gather more details about their personal lives. If you know where their passions lie, you have a better chance of making a real connection with them.

Stay positive.

When you do meet someone new, do not, under any circumstances, complain. We all want to attract people who are overflowing with positive energy and push away people who give off negative energy. If you are having a bad day and you can’t pull yourself out of it, stay home. First impressions last forever. Even if you are unemployed and suffering, don’t frame it that way. You are an aspiring developer or an IT professional. If you are not currently employed, you are consulting, working on a contract basis, freelancing, etc. It is not misinformation; you would take advantage of those types of opportunities if you had them. It is semantics and it makes a big difference in the impression you make.

In essence, relax and be yourself. The most important part of this practice is to be genuine and sincere. If you meet people who rub you the wrong way, move on. There are always plenty of others around to chat with. It may take a while to get used to, but once you have attended a certain group two or three times, people will recognize you and the whole engagement will feel much more comfortable.