Just the word itself conjures up memories of anxiety and high school dances. Not everyone has the ability to walk up to a complete stranger and spark up a conversation. Those who do, have a leg up on the competition. However, those who do not, have a little work ahead of them.
Love it or hate it, done correctly, networking is key and can help to launch or improve yourself and your business. Simply put, the benefits of putting yourself out there and telling your story to a complete stranger far outweighs the discomfort involved. Here are five ways to help you overcome that anxiety and put yourself out there:
To a very few, networking comes naturally. To the rest, networking is a learned skill just like typing. Before you go to a job interview, do you practice? The same goes for networking. Stand in front of the mirror and practice your elevator speech. Don’t have one? Write one. Now!
Prepare a half a minute speech about you, your industry, where you see your industry heading and what you intend to do to keep yourself and your business ahead of the curve. That sounds like quite a bit for thirty seconds and it is. But, you would be surprised how much you can actually say in thirty seconds.
Also, be sure to have a few go to questions to ask people if conversation becomes stalled. People love talking about themselves. My favorite is asking about recent or upcoming vacations. If all else fails, gracefully bow out of the conversation and move on.
2. Be There
Yes, you have to physically be at a networking event to garner any success but you also must be there in each conversation. You must be listening and showing the other person you are paying attention. If you are looking around or constantly interrupting, the other person will assume you are trying to leave the conversation. You never want to put off that vibe.
3. Body Language
Stand tall and face the person with whom you are conversing. Smile! A smile goes a long way. Do not cross your arms, this action gives off a closed vibe and that is the complete opposite of what you want at a networking event. Keep your phone in your pocket until you are alone. Seriously. Unless your wife is about to give birth, that text or email that just made your phone vibrate can wait five minutes.
4. Buddy System
Anyone who attended camp at a young age knows the buddy system. You never go swimming alone. You never go hiking alone. You also never go to a networking event alone. Bringing someone with you not only allows you to walk in the room with a friend but it also gives you a safe place to retreat after speaking with a few new people. Do not use this person as a crutch, however. Do not stand with each other at the bar all evening like you are at your high school dance freshman year afraid to go speak with the pretty girls across the room. Branch out and find each other again after thirty minutes or speaking with five new people.
5. Be Yourself
You do not have to be the center of attention or schmooze everyone in the room. Just be yourself. If you are naturally funny, tell some jokes, appropriate ones, of course. If you are naturally shy and nervous, walk up to someone, introduce yourself and tell them you are shy and nervous. If you try to be someone you are not, people will see through that. Be yourself and be friendly.
These tips will help you to be a better networker and exude self-confidence which, in turn, makes people respect you more and want to do business with you. Now, get out there and network!
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