Little Fish in a Big Pond: Controlling Your Nerves at a Networking Event

Networking at a big event can be a daunting task, depending on who you ask. For the new guy, it can be quite the obstacle.

Imagine my surprise when my supervisor told me that I, the new digital media assistant, would be attending the CEO Updates/Leading Authorities Association Leadership Awards with our firm’s senior management. Not only was the event’s guest list replete with accomplished professionals, but our firm was also taking its heavy hitters to the venue. I was a little fish in a big pond in a big ocean.

When service firms attend these events, they look to network and scout for future clients. The food may be great, the venue may be elegant, but nothing beats networking with potential new clients, especially when you can build a relationship with them. So, how is the new guy supposed to convey a digital CPA firm’s services in a detailed and thorough manner without becoming anxious?

Truth be told, I had full control of my nerves, and I was more excited than intimidated. How?

Think: “I’ve survived my battles.”—For those of us who have faced a fair level of adversity, the anxiety of meeting new people should mean nothing. The obstacles that life throws at you and the anxiety that it instigates dwarf the challenge of meeting new people. If you credit yourself with surviving your battles, the battle of being a little fish in a big pond is simply another pit stop on the road to success. From taking care of sick family to working during school to escaping poverty, shaking hands with heavy hitters is not only surmountable, but also easily beatable. Keep in mind that you are a human being with your own story traveling on a journey that is fraught with hardships and setbacks—when you look back upon on it, a network event will be the slightest of your problems.

If that doesn’t ease your worries, think that each networking event is a chance to make yourself better. Robert Greene, a prolific author on power, strategy, and persuasion, has written countless accounts of prominent men and women who turned their struggles into opportunities to better themselves. Greene’s works constantly echo the need to become better. If you’re networking, you’re looking to better your position. If you’re looking to better your position, you want more than what you have. If you want more than what you have, then you need to get better. If you need to get better, have a positive outlook on things and turn every hardship into an opportunity. Networking events with prevalent industry figures offer you the chance to not only distribute your business cards and market your firm, but they also give you the chance to see how industry insiders approach strangers, take advice from successful individuals, and overcome any nervousness you might have.

If you are genuine, you have nothing to worry about. If you approach individuals with an immediate hard sell, you will turn them off. It shows you aren’t interested in their story, personality, or work. While everyone attends networking events for themselves (and why shouldn’t they?), making it painfully obvious will hurt your cause. Instead, go to these events seeking to build relationships with different people.

Many genuinely interested person feel little anxiety after shaking hands, having a few laughs, and establishing a conversation. Treating people respectfully and not as assets isn’t a talent–it’s a necessity for establishing the trust that eventually sells.

Understand others are there for the same reason. If you feel awkward at a networking event, just keep in mind everyone is there for the same reason—to network!

The same dynamic works in a job interview. Interviewees should remain calm and collected. Why? If you’re called for an interview, it means that not only do your job prospects rise, but the firm also thinks you’re qualified for the position. While you may be one of many vying for the same position, at the very least, you know you have the qualifications to get the job done. Like the dynamic with networking, you and the employer are there for the same reason—both of you agree on your qualifications. Both of you want to meet the position needs.

In the end, this post could apply to a number of situations. Facing your fears, as minor as they may be,is tough for many people, so I hope this post help you.


Jason Patel is the digital media and administrative assistant at Lumix CPAs and Advisors. He is a graduate of the George Washington University and currently studies political management. He is a Brazilian jiu-jitsu player, outdoorsman, and aspiring entrepreneur. You can add him on Facebook, follow him on Twitter, or view his profile on LinkedIn.