Updated: Apr 26, 2018
Excuse the heading. I've been networking for over 15 years, without even consciously recognising it for most of that time yet, as I've raised my game, there are some lessons I'd like to share.
Public speaking is the number one fear in the USA. I often hear that people, including seasoned professionals, business owners, directors and leaders, have a strong aversion to speaking in public including "networking" and I, too, was once amongst this group. I understand. I hated the very idea of it and I’ve been doing it for over 15 years, sometimes without even knowing it! What I want to say is that it’s ok to feel awkward about it yet, at the same time, you can learn to make networking less daunting and actually enjoyable and effective. Honestly.
Over the years, I have learned more about what networking is and is not and I’m so pleased, that with support or personal growth from people like Simon Sinek (inspiring speaker), Paul Boross (TV show psychologist, Pitch Doctor and author), Judith Quinn (vocal coach) and Chris Walker (solicitor) to name a few, I have adapted to networking so that, whilst I’m not a sales expert, it is a great positive experience. I’ve even gone on to speak at networking events!
Here are 10 things I have learnt. If you’ve picked up other things and have wisdom to share – why not share this here in comments? The community here is always interested to learn more.
1. If you often dread networking, take pause. Try to understand why your predetermined mental movie about networking is so daunting. Who planted the unhelpful thoughts? Why? Where did they stem from? Are they evidence based – for you?
You are not alone, I guarantee it. And, Paul Boross (Pitch Doctor) shared recently that the number one fear in the USA is public speaking – networking events are about speaking in public and, to top that, you are talking about yourself, but you don’t have to fear it.
2. Consider consciously now that an event labelled a networking event is about building and nurturing relationships – over time, you will come to know a range of people who may provide solutions to members of the group and their connections and this works both ways. The more networking I have done, the more faces have become familiar and attending events has become more comfortable – I’ve made friends via networking, attracted new clients and speaking engagements.
3. Consider re-naming “networking” if the mere word is daunting; for me, it’s about the possibility of making new friends (and I have). Many people have a preconceived (negative) image of what networking is without giving it a genuine chance. An open mind serves well. As a reminder, with re-naming, challenge yourself to have a mind-set shift around what networking really is.
4. Most people dislike (or would rather not be at) networking – therefore we are in the same boat! This is some comfort!
5. You don’t have to like everyone you meet – but you will like some people you meet.
6. Visualising the outcome I wish for before an event helps to get through the event with composure and confidence. I never thought I would ever do this but it helps. If visualisation isn’t for you, try writing down the outcome you want (eg, to talk to 3 attendees about how they can help others and how I can help them, then follow up with a coffee) or just say it to yourself.
7. Be selective about the events or networking groups you attend; attend as many as you can initially as a visitor, if possible, as you will soon realise where you “connect”.
8. Talk to others, with sincerity, about what THEY do and LISTEN.
9. Offer snippets of guidance, if relevant, without expectation.
10. Be authentic – if you’re passionate about you do and genuine in your approach, it will come across. My biggest asset has been my authenticity – my journey, my challenges, my resilience, how I’ve helped people unleash the best version of themselves at work - and my passion now.
And one more:
11. At the right time, share stories of your experiences and solutions provided (the right time may be in your 60 second pitch or 5 minutes into a conversation with another guest/member).
If you resonate with this and would like to really nail this, why not connect with me now?