For many people (myself included), the idea of going to networking events and having to strike up conversations with people that you don’t know can be terrifying! Unfortunately, as an entrepreneur, networking is a pretty vital part of growing your business. So, how do you work up the courage to attend networking events if you’re an introvert? Follow these five steps and you’ll be mingling in no time!

1. Bring a friend
Having a friend with you as a support system can make the act of networking a lot less terrifying and awkward. Bring someone who is outgoing and will have an easier time starting conversations that you would. If you are going to bring a friend though, make sure that you don’t only end up talking to them. Try to implement a third person rule, meaning that at any point during the event, you and your friend always have a third person that you’re in conversation with.

2. Get there early
I know you’re probably thinking to yourself “I’m terrified to go at all! Why would I want to get there early!?” But hear me out on this one. Once the event has been going on for awhile, everyone will be immersed in conversations, which can make it harder to walk up to people and join in the dialogue. However, if you get to the networking event early, you can strike up conversations with the other early arrivals. Plus, getting there early means there probably won’t be a line at the bar!

3. Prepare your pitch
It’s really important to have a pitch prepared so that when someone asks what you do, you don’t have to stumble through explaining your business. It doesn’t have to be long, just a few sentences that will clearly and concisely get your brand across. If you’re confident in your pitch, you’ll feel a lot more confident when striking up conversations in any networking setting.

4. Strive for quality over quantity
The success of a networking event should not be based on how many different people you talk to, but the quality of the conversations that you have. Don’t feel like you have to jump around and talk to every person at the event. Instead, make an effort to talk to a few people throughout the evening and have quality conversations with those select people. If you have a good conversation with someone, exchange business cards and let them know that you’re interested in keeping in touch. If you’re talking with someone and you’re just not really feeling their vibe, politely excuse yourself when you get a chance and find someone else to talk to.

5. Be confident
No one knows that you’re freaking out in your head, so if you act confident, that is how others will perceive you. Stand up straight, keep your head up, speak clearly and with intention and no one will have any clue that you want to run and hide in the bathroom. Also, remember that you are not the only person who feels uncomfortable at networking events and even the people who walk around like they own the place have probably felt awkward in a social situation at one point or another.