THE FOUR SECRETS TO MANAGING YOUR NETWORKING NERVES
If you have ever walked into a crowded room and felt like the odd one out, you can commiserate with those who struggle with networking. Networking in a different environment, or even among those you know, can be intimidating. Regardless of rank or personality, almost everyone can relate to that lonely-by-the-punch-bowl feeling.
Even as a PR professional (the quintessential chit-chat maven), I can attest to feeling awkward at times. However, as I have worked to overcome that discomfort, I have learned a few things that have helped put my mind at ease in a new group.
The following are tools I have utilized in overcoming the networking nerves. These techniques will help you actually enjoy the social dance floor.
Change your mindset This may sound harsh, but stop thinking about yourself. The biggest roadblock to connecting with new people is obsessing over the “What will they think of me?” Self-absorption is a hobgoblin that stymies natural conversation.
Put others first Before you start thinking about how this new connection will serve your needs/grow your business/improve your standing, set aside selfish gain and consider how you can help this new contact you’ve established. Does this lead to new business or opportunities for them? It may or it may not immediately, but networking eventually pays dividends. With this mindset in place, it is easier to genuinely interact, get to know others, and build relationships.
Ask the first question With steps 1 and 2 in place, step number 3 is a practical one: Ask the first question. Take a genuine interest in the other person and you won’t have to worry about perfecting your 60-second elevator pitch and delivering it perfectly. Stuck for questions? Have a few general ones that you ask regularly that are open-ended and simple. They might include such icebreakers as: “Tell me a little more about your work – what is it you really enjoy?” “Why are you living in XX area?” or even “What is the most interesting presentation you’ve heard lately?”
When you ask, LISTEN… Nothing will kill a connection more quickly than being a poor listener. If you are going to ask a question, it is absolutely critical that you be attentive to the answer and eliminate distractions. Make eye contact and listen to make sure they’re finished speaking before jumping in to contribute. Do not look over their shoulder. Do not check your watch or glance at your phone. EVER. Give people your full attention. Every. Single. Time.
Here’s the last thing to remember: Networking is a blast. When you go into it with the right motivation and a generous mentality, you too can rock on the social dance floor.