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Did you know 93% of people self-identify as shy? So how does someone who hid from the neighbors out of shyness as a child make contacts and find clients?
If you're not confident by nature, pretend you are. You're not wearing a sign that says, “I am shy and lack confidence.” The great thing about a room full of strangers is that they know nothing about you. You can have false bravado and they'll never be the wiser.
If speaking in front of people has always been your downfall, you're not alone. Remember that the people you meet are likely just as terrified as you are to be put on the spot. Practice your introduction and speech in front of a mirror until you can deliver it naturally and without prompts.
We're not in junior high anymore. What's the absolute worst thing that could happen to you at a networking event? You stumble over a word? You trip down the stairs? It's not the end of the world. In fact, you'll probably find a lot of encouragement, rather than the taunting shrieks you remember from your school days. Grown ups handle embarrassment a lot better.
The best scenario is that you make new contacts, new business partners, and new friends. Through networking, you can build relationships that will last the rest of your life.