Tuesday August 28, 2018
When you think of networking, what do you imagine? A room full of stuffy people in suits, handing out business cards and making awkward small talk?
The idea of speaking to dozens of people, especially people you don’t know, can be daunting for even the bravest of us.
Why? Because it’s just assumed that to be a good networker, you need to be “on” all the time – you must be extroverted and charming, professional and suave, and most of all, impressive.
For the socially awkward among us, that can be a death blow.
Well, I’m going to let you in on a little secret most people don’t realize: networking isn’t about you. It’s about the other person. It’s about learning about them and their business and making them feel like you have a real interest in what they do.
Once you realize that, it takes so much of the pressure off.
Here are a few more tips to help you get over your fear of mingling and up your networking game:
Practice, Practice, Practice
If the very thought of speaking to strangers makes you clam up, write down what you’re going to say in advance.
Take a few minutes to come up with your “Elevator Pitch” - a quick spiel about you and your business that you can rattle off quickly and easily, without too much stress. It should include:
- An introduction (your name, the name of your company, and what you do)
- A more in-depth overview of any ONE of the products or services that you offer
- How your product or service will benefit the end recipient
- An “ask” (or a brief mention of who an ideal referral would be)
- A closing in which you repeat your name and company information
Having a “hook” memorized in advance is a great way to make sure you have something to say when you’re put on the spot – and it can lead to ongoing conversation.
Don't make your first networking event a huge gathering of hundreds of people. Try going to a local Chamber of Commerce breakfast that you know will be cozy, or a lunchtime meet n' greet that's limited in space.
Even better: start off with people you know. Having a familiar face or two in the crowd can be a life-saver when you’re feeling nervous – and if you get stuck, they can help you keep the conversation moving.
If you’re in need of some places to start, I’d love to have you join me as my guest at one or both networking groups I attend every month, Polka Dot Powerhouse or eWomen Network. Feel free to reach out to me if you’re interested in the deets!
Realize That Everyone is There for the Same Reason
You’re not the only one at the networking event trying to sell others on your business. In fact, that’s why everyone is there.
If you take a look around and listen to what other people are saying, you might see that many of them feel just as awkward and nervous as you.
Seek out other people who seem to be having a hard time. It’s way easier to talk to someone else who feels as goofy as you do, and you might just make a valuable business connection in the process!
In the end, networking events can be boring and stuffy. But only if you let them!
You can make it a lot more enjoyable for yourself if you take some of the pressure off. Tell yourself that it’s ok if you don’t make a dozen connections – or even one.
Just be yourself, in all of your socially awkward glory, and chat with whomever you want.
And if you don’t feel like talking about business, that’s ok, too – tell people about your dog or your undying love of whatever show you’re currently binge-watching on Netflix. Chances are, the more you act like "you" the more people will enjoy talking to you anyway.
Now, get out there and mingle!