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Tips for the Challenged Networker

I’m a horrible networker. It’s because I am an introverted extrovert. A currently reforming shy person. It takes the right conditions for me to open up and communicate. I’m usually the first person to slip out the back of meetings immediately after they’re over, while everyone else is schmoozing and catching up. In part to shyness and honestly, in part to a general lack of interest in small talk about things that don’t interest me.

However, esthetics is a world made of networking. Networking in this industry means learning who’s hiring, who has deals on equipment, where the next interesting (and reasonably priced) training will be held, and who needs models for demos. If you’re a business owner, well, you have no choice. Networking for business owners means finding out who has free backbar and no minimum opening orders and where the latest deal is on ultrasound machines. Networking versus not networking for a business owner could mean saving hundreds (or thousands)… or not.

NASN-bagsNetworking For Introverts

There are some networking settings, however, which I feel even introverts can thrive in…conferences and trade shows. Something about these events makes me bubble with excitement. Maybe it’s because I’m a true esthy nerd. Or maybe it’s the plethora of smell-goods, myriad of free education, shiny age-reversing machines, and the buzz of ingenuity, or better yet…the swag bags and free samples (I love shaking out my promotional bags at the end of an event and taking in the day’s haul). I could practically gallop down the aisles.

National Aesthetic Spa Network

This week, NASN Pro was held in Marietta. NASN stands for National Aesthetic Spa Network. Some of the speakers were Elaine Sterling of the Elaine Sterling Institute, who spoke on branding your business; Dr. Harry Fallick, from Tizo Sunscreens, who talked about reversing photo damage; and Anita Lumpkin and Lisa Travis from Universal Companies, who gave advice on how to upgrade services with masks.

Vendors, including BushWaxer, Black Mermaid Soaps, Eva’s Esthetics, SkinStylus, and GlymedPlus, among others, offered product samples, showed off new equipment, and engaged in conversations about how their products or devices could fit into your spa.  Although the vendors are there to sell, this environment is great for fellow “challenged networkers”. Why? Because when you speak with these individuals, you already have a topic of conversation- the product, the machine, the services. Esthy nerds can always find something to ask, something to talk about. As other estheticians come up to the tables, natural conversations tend to ensue.

Lunch is served at a table consisting at least partly of strangers. Still no fear to be had here. I don’t know about you, but I find food to be the great equalizer, and it literally loosens lips. It seems so much easier to talk about where you went to school, what you’re doing now, and what brought you to the conference as you’re poring over a plate of chicken marsala or munching on an exquisitely moist red velvet cupcake. Breaking bread together creates a feeling of familiarity and comfort that relaxes the tension for a challenged networker. So, instead of checking emails in your car, I encourage you to stay for lunch; both the food and conversation are worth it. 


Here are a few tips for challenged networkers:

  1. Have professional business cards made. Vistaprint does a great job and is quite affordable. Even if you’re not one for a lot of talk, you can always ask for one’s business card and give yours in exchange.
  2. Take a friend. Sometimes having the company of another person can be just the buffer you need to feel a little more confident to engage with others.
  3. If you’re unsure about how to start a conversation, ask a question. Ask a sales representative about their products- how do you use it, how is it different, what are the costs? Ask a person where they work or where they went to school; ask a business owner how long they’ve been in business. These questions might seem basic, boring, or corny, but they work. They get conversations going, and it puts the responsibility on the other person to talk. However, be sure to listen, and if you have a question ask it. If something interests you say so. NASN-vendor
  4. Use social media to your advantage. If there is a company that you like; an esthetician whom you admire; or someone that you met at a training or a conference; friend them on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, or whatever platforms you use. I’ve had a few conversations start by people saying that they follow me on one social media platform or another.
  5. Lastly, remember you’re not the only one in the room who may be uncomfortable. Just do the best you can. Try to smile and look approachable and some people will come to you. Perhaps consider setting one or two goals for yourself- passing out at least 5 business cards, letting one business owner know that you love their product or establishment, or sparking a conversation with at least one vendor you’re not familiar with. You don’t have to conquer the world in a day. Take it slow, in pieces that are manageable for you, but remember that in order to make some progress you have to step out of your comfort zone a little.

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