Spoiler: Dear event manager, people fear attending networking events because of YOU.
- “How to Overcome Your Fear of Networking Events,”
- “5 Hacks for Overcoming Social Anxiety and Networking Like a Pro,”
- “What To Say At Networking Events To Eliminate Awkward Moments”
… These are just a few of the 16,800,000 results you’ll see when you Google “fear of networking.”
Thousands of articles teach your potential audience how to sooth the anxiety before attending your events! Hundreds of Quora and Reddit questions reflect people’s worries about feeling awkward or sounding unprofessional when interacting with others. Dozens of so-called “experts” built seven-figure businesses by showing clients how “to overcome their shyness” and “network like a pro.”
Let’s be honest: People fear networking events!
As skilled networker and author Sandy Jones-Kaminsky notes, “There exists some general anxiety, which many people feel when merely faced with an invite to a networking event and in many cases with good reason.”
Here are some of the main reasons people fear attending networking events:
Reason #1. They experience the uncertainty factor
People may have a vague idea about the pool of professionals they’ll meet at a networking event, and hope that somehow they’ll be able to exchange a few words with someone who can bring significant value to their business, career, or project. But what people don’t have are concrete details about the event, and since they don’t know how the interactions will unfold, they’re naturally anxious about messing things up.
Reason #2. They don’t know how to prepare
Not knowing how the networking event will unfold and with whom they’ll interact can greatly affect how attendees prepare. They may formulate some general information about themselves and their businesses, yet they won’t be able to structure and personalize strong messages for specific people they will want to talk to during the event. So they run the risk of looking unprepared in front of those who can change the path of their businesses or careers. Who wants to experience that?
Reason #3. They feel uncomfortable dealing with strangers
According to Nicholas Epley, professor of Behavioral Science at the University of Chicago, people manifest a paradoxical mindset when it comes to interaction. As Epley states in his paper “Mistakenly Seeking Solitude,” although we are social animals, we tend to believe that “connecting with a stranger in conversation is truly less pleasant than remaining isolated.” Epley highlights that people prefer isolation to the company of random strangers. Thus, people fear attending networking events because they will have to interact with strangers they know nothing about.
Reason #4. They feel anxious about approaching others
One of the biggest reasons why people fear attending networking events is the social context that forces them to step out of their comfort zone. Leadership consultant and author Devora Zack notes that approaching new people at events can be a highly unpleasant activity, which unleashes the fight-or-flight response.
Reason #5. They worry about being in a potentially stressful and awkward situation
No description needed. We’ve all experienced these types of situations while attending networking events. As Zack highlights, “Heck, even some of us fearless types can also have that reaction because we have all too often been beyond frustrated with the outcomes of, and behaviors at, many of the networking events we attend.”
“People fear attending networking events because they are introverts or lack social skills,” you may be thinking.
There’s something genuinely wrong with designing, planning, and running networking events. And silly icebreaking games, rivers of alcohol, or tasty food won’t fix that.
People fear attending networking events and YOU, as an event planner, are the only one responsible.
It’s time to change that, don’t you think?
Make your attendees stop reading “Networking Survival Kit”-type of articles and encourage them to enjoy the interaction experience.