How to Deal with Anxiety When Meeting Strangers at Networking Events

Anxiety: a mental health disorder characterized by feelings of worry, anxiety, or fear that are strong enough to interfere with one’s daily activities.

We all know meeting new people is important, but for those struggling with anxiety, the feeling of dread when it comes to “putting yourself out there” can be almost debilitating.

Going to networking events to meet people, to reconnect with people, informational interviews, conferences — these are all important things to do in order to have a strong network and stand out in your career.

Those with anxiety can also stick to smaller events, organize gatherings of a few people from your industry or work, or focus on one-on-one informational interviews. Or maybe going to a large event where you can blend in with the crowd more.

For those who still want to give networking events a go, there are ways to lessen the stress of networking that will make it a more enjoyable experience, or at least get you through it.

Have an exit plan

Give yourself an out. So you’re not uncomfortable or feel bad, create a curfew for yourself. Make plans after that will help you escape.


Take deep breathes. It will help you relax.

Bring a friend

There’s safety in numbers. If you’re extra nervous, bring a friend. Going alone might be a better way to push yourself to talk to others, but if the thought is paralyzingly, a buddy is better.

Listen to upbeat music

Get pumped, let your adrenaline replace nervousness. Throw on your headphones and rock out on your way over.

Wear an outfit you love

That last thing you want is to feel physically uncomfortable when you’re mentally uncomfortable. Confidence makes a difference, so avoiding testing new shoes, wearing something too tight, or trying to be too cool.

Have something in your hand

For some reason, there’s comfort in keeping your hands busy. Even if you don’t drink, grab something from the bar or wear a purse or bag you can hold on to so you feel physically at ease.

Pick the right place

If the idea of meeting strangers makes your stomach flip, make sure the events and get-togethers you choose to attend are a good fit. How do you know? Check out photos and videos when possible, and see if there’s anyone you know who’s attended in the past. For instance, at FindSpark events we put huge efforts into making people feel comfortable and welcome, as opposed to events at bars where it’s loud and there’s not even name tags.

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Attend online events

Twitter chats and virtual events are great ways to meet new people from the comfort of your phone or home. You can still interact with a lot of folks at once, and there’s sure to be some people you end of really connecting with who you can then meet up with IRL. Now, meeting strangers from the Internet may seem like exactly what your parents told you not to do when you got your first computer in the 90s, but we promise, you can do it in a safe way and it’s totally not weird.

Do it for someone you love

If you need a super strong motivation to attend an event, a good reason is to go for a best friend, significant other, or sibling. Forgot the situation and focus on supporting them and helping the have a good time.

How do you deal with having anxiety when it comes to attending networking events? Share your tips in the comments!


About the Author

Emily is Founder and CEO of FindSpark. Passionate about the power of social media and networking; Emily has spoken at numerous colleges, conferences, and events including The International Youth Leaders Assembly at The United Nations, SXSW Interactive, Internet Week, Mediabistro's Social Media Bootcamp, Time Inc, Columbia University, and New York University, among others. Emily is also an adjunct professor, teaching social media and career courses at multiple colleges. Learn more about having Emily speak at your next event and follow her on twitter @EmilyMiethner.

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