By Amie Crews | December, 2015
Face the Fear: Tips for Successful Networking
Are you terrified of networking?
Well, you’re not alone, as I can immediately call to mind at least a handful of people who are fearful about it, probably more if I thought about it for longer. In fact, I was asked while writing this what the topic was, and when I replied “networking fears”, the response was “eeek scary!!”
But what if networking was an essential part of getting on both in life and work? Sorry to tell you, it is.
Forget business networking for a moment, we all have to network in life if we want to get our own outcomes achieved. How many times have you either asked, or been asked for a recommendation, a plumber or someone to fulfill a specific task? It’s through our network of friends, family and sometimes strangers that we can answer these requests. When you start attending a new club or your child starts school, you start to build networks of a different kind. Perhaps you have to attend ongoing development sessions for your job, and this means you’ll be networking with others from the same or similar skills background.
Where there is choice, there is sometimes avoidance! So this article focuses on some tips to confront your fear of networking in a business environment, but can easily be read through a number of different lenses.
So, what are some of the main fears my clients talk about?
- Stepping through the door (into the unknown)
- Striking up and knowing where to take the conversations
- Selling myself, my products
- Remembering names
Lets tackle each in turn:
The fear of stepping through the door. The truth is, you don’t always know who or what will be on the other side of that door, but more often than not it’s a big welcoming smile and some interesting people to talk to. It does pay to prepare a little in advance, either ask for a participant list, or if you’re a user of social media, ask who else might be attending this event, as you may be able to connect with someone in advance.
Prepare yourself physically, make sure you’ve freshened up if you’ve had a bit of a journey, take a couple of minutes to do some breathing exercises if you feel nervous.
If you have the choice, attend events which you might find fun, different networking opportunities do have their own agendas. Some are very focused on referrals, whereas others it’s about building relationships in a more fun, lighthearted way.
Getting the conversation going. If you have a list of attendees, have a read and start by talking to someone in the same or similar industry, this is a good way to help the dry mouth syndrome as you’ll most likely have common issues. Do use the host or the facilitator to make introductions if you’re not sure who to talk to. Consider one of your own challenges. or something that you would benefit from some input on, and ask to be introduced to someone who might be good to meet. Once you’ve made that initial contact, the conversation will quickly move through introductions, what you do (be prepared to answer this for yourself, concisely) and then onto other stuff.
It does help to keep on top of current news topics, both in current affairs and in your field of interest. Chances are, these are the things that people will digress towards.
Selling! Firstly, don’t do it!! Well, unless the event you are attending is specifically focused on selling, then of course you should. Networking is about building relationships and learning about the challenges that other businesses are presented with. If there is something relevant to your own business, then of course feel free to share what you do, or perhaps you can recommend someone else to help them. Be prepared to answer questions such as what you do, typical clients or businesses you work with, and what problems you can solve. Be authentic and true to yourself, after all that is what people will remember.
Avoid name amnesia. It’s very common for someones name to go in one ear and out of the other, especially if you’re feeling a little nervous and no one you meet is wearing a name tag.
Firstly, when you meet them, make sure you greet them with their name, e.g “Hi, I’m Louisa,” “Hi Louisa, great to meet you, I’m Amie”. You can then lead on with “So, Louisa, what brings you here today?”, or “tell me a little about what you do?”
One way that I learned to tackle this, is to carry a small notepad and in between conversations jot down key details, their name, business, something distinctive about them – clothes, hair, glasses etc. Even better if you ask for a business card, you can scribble it all on there! Don’t be afraid of admitting you’ve forgotten their name, there is nothing worse than losing focus on the conversation because you’re desperately searching your brain.
Other things to consider:
- Wear something you feel good in. This will enhance your confidence and it will also prevent you from fidgeting with your clothes. If you don’t normally wear a tie, then why choose to wear a tie now?
- If it’s drinks and networking, don’t feel tempted towards alcohol especially if you are feeling nervous. I once attended an event where one participant in particular was clearly a little worse for wear come the end and it wasn’t professional. Similarly if it’s an evening thing, likewise, trying to introduce yourself with handfuls (or mouthfuls) of breakfast pastries can prove difficult
- Bring business cards if you have them, or find another way to connect with people. LinkedIn is great for business networking and as most people have smart devices now, you can look up and connect immediately, just make sure you’ve agreed it, unsolicited email is not welcomed
- Don’t feel obliged to connect with people, but do remember that you’re not just connecting with them, it’s who they know also
- Afterwards, make your follow ups promptly
- Remember it’s all about building relationships, so arrange coffee if you think it will be worth pursuing a more detailed conversation
- Feel free to share a comment on your own experiences of networking, both good and bad
Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/expert/Amie_Crews/884282