4 Tips for Overcoming Networking Nervousness

Focus on What You WantHave you ever been nervous about attending a networking event?  Here are 4 tips on overcoming the fear of rejection or of being judged:

1. Focus on What you Want.  I think the number one thing you can do is to focus on what you want, not on what you don’t want. If you focus on the outcome you desire, or on the relationships you want to develop instead of what could go wrong, you will approach networking events with a positive mindset.

It’s very easy to let your fear grow to Goliath proportions.  But just like David slew Goliath with small stones from a sling shot, you can shoot down your fears with small and simple steps.

2.  Face the Fear.  Realizing that it is very hard not to focus on what might go wrong, at times I allow myself  to focus on the fear just long enough to deal with it.  I like to play the “Worst Case Scenario” game when it comes to possible negative outcomes.  What is the worst case scenario that could happen in being judged or rejected at a networking event?  Is the other person likely to throw a punch at you?  No.  Is your life in danger?  No.  Are they even likely to laugh at you?  Probably not.  In reality, the fear is of saying something wrong–something stupid or offensive.  Right?  So, ask yourself, “What is the worst that can happen if I say something stupid?”  Probably the worst thing that can happen is that the other person may judge you based on that one interaction and you won’t do business with them.  Is that OK with you?  Is it OK that you don’t do business with everyone you meet?

Then, depending on what your worst case scenario is, you can even have a plan for how to handle it.  For example, I still struggle with remembering people’s names.  My worst case scenario is running into someone whose name I should know, but I can’t recall.  I actually have a few different plans for handling that situation.  But, my fall back is to simply admit it.  I just face the fear, plan for how to deal with it and move on.   Just mentally deal with it and get over it.

3. Give a Gift.  What I mean by “give a gift” is to believe that you have something of great value to offer.  A gift.  If you don’t already believe this, then you need to spend some time developing your own list of advantages and benefits.  When you believe that you have something of great value to offer, you get the same feeling that you have when you give someone a gift that is the perfect gift.  You get excited to give it.  You focus more on the other person and less on yourself.  Fear is very inward-looking.  Focus outward by focusing on the other person and what you have to offer.  Give a gift.

4. Find Friends. Consider strangers as friends you haven’t met yet.  Think about it.  Aside from blood-relatives, all the important people in your life–your spouse, your best friend, your current business associates–they were all strangers at one time.

One thing I sometimes do as I enter a room full of strangers is to pause, look around at the people, and imagine that they are already my good friends that I haven’t seen in ages.  I think to myself, “Hello, old friends.” And, these “old friends” probably have their own fears of rejection, too!  You can focus on helping them feel comfortable–that’s something you’d do for a friend!

Focus on what you want.  Face the fear.  Give a gift.  Find some friends.

Do you have some tips for reducing nervousness?


Are You Wasting Your Time at Networking Events?

Yesterday, I went to my first speed networking event.  Speed networking is like speed dating for business.  In the course of less than an hour, I had brief conversations with about a dozen people, all small business owners who sold products or services to either customers  or to other small- to medium-sized businesses.

I found it  exhilarating, efficient, and enlightening.    It was exhilarating because we only had 4 minutes to chat before switching to a new conversation partner.  It was efficient because 4 minutes was enough time to determine if there was a likely reason to follow up (strategic partner or referral source).  With the facilitator forcing us to switch, there was no need to have an “exit” plan to move onto another person.  It was enlightening because I realized that the people attending this networking event, like most small business networking events, were neither my target market (for professional speaking and executive presentation coaching) nor were they likely to be either strategic partners or referral partners.  To take a negative view, I probably wasted my time.

But I prefer a positive take!  In traditional networking mixers, I spend much more than 4 minutes with people.  I love getting to know people, whether or not we might build a business relationship.  Everyone has a story and I love hearing their story and connecting with them.  Talking with new people is a lot of fun for me–chit chat is like cat nip to my soul.  The fun of chit chat often dulls my realization that certain conversations will likely be non-productive business-wise.  Not so with speed-networking.  There was no time for chit chat, so the lack of a real business reason to follow up was painfully clear.

However, I don’t think I wasted my time because  I learned a valuable lesson that was obscured for me in traditional networking mixers: Focus your networking and connection-building with your Target Clients or Targeted Strategic and Referral Partners.   Don’t just fill your calendar with networking events.  Select your events mindfully.  Ask yourself this question before attending a networking event:  Will Target Clients, Strategic Partners or Referral Partners likely be there? 

If not, maybe you are wasting your time.

7 Tips to Authentic Networking, Genuine Results

 I’m tired of going to networking events and having people vomit out their elevator speech, or pass out business cards like a black jack dealer.  What a waste of time!  Do you want to create authentic, lasting relationships that yield genuine results?

1. Listen more than you talk. You already know this, but are you doing this effectively?  The secret is to ask open-ended questions (questions that can’t be answered with a “yes” or “no”), reflect on the answers and make follow up comments or questions to clarify your understanding.  Listen for “pain points” and then,

2. Find a way to offer help. Become known as a “go-to” person.  Be the one that has the resources and knows the people who can help.  Follow up on conversations with emails that offer information related to your conversation.

3. Don’t give someone your business card unless they ask.   When it comes to business cards, it is better to receive than give.  If you give someone your card, you have given them all the power.  You want to get their card.  Ask if it is OK for you to follow up, connect on LinkedIn, etc.

4.  Don’t use an elevator speech.  Prepared 30  or 60 second commercials may be fine for formal networking events where they are expected, but they fall flat in one-on-one conversation.  Nobody wants to be pitched the moment they meet someone.  Wait until  someone asks “What do you do?” or shows some interest and then have a “bumper-sticker” version of your elevator speech, of about 12 words or fewer that leaves the listener wanting more.   Perhaps have more than one “bumper-sticker” to apply to different types of people.  Let’s say you sell jewelry.  If you are talking to a busy-budget minded mom, you might say, “I sell affordable, classic jewelry that can be both casual and dressy.”  If you are talking to a corporate executive (a guy who might need some gift ideas for wife or daughter), you might say, “I sell unique, investment-quality jewelry that says ‘I’m worth it.’”

5.  Use storytelling.  Everybody loves a good story, as long as it is relevant to the conversation.  Stories connect with people on an emotional level and have the added bonus of being memorable.  If you want people to remember you and remember your message (or product/service), tell a story.  For example, again using jewelry,  you could tell a story about a custom piece that you made for a customer.  Why did they want it?  How do they enjoy it?

6.  Use self-disclosure.  Now, I’m not talking about getting uncomfortably personal.  But all too often I see networking newbies follow the advice of “ask questions” and take it to the extreme.  They ask so many questions, that the other person never discovers anything about them.  A one-sided relationship isn’t a relationship.  Go ahead and ask questions, but reflect on the answers and provide some personal input.  Let the other person know that you have faced similar challenges or had similar failings and you will build a common bond.  People like other people who seem like themselves.    You can also use a tiny bit of self-disclosure when you ask questions.  See #7

 7. Break the Ice by warming up your questions.  Make an observational comment about something you both experience.  Follow that with a transitional comment that reveals a tidbit of information about yourself and then ask an open-ended question.

Example: A networking event

1.  Observation comment: “I notice you have an iPhone.”

2.  Personal tidbit:  “I’ve been using a Blackberry for years, but I’m considering an iPhone.”

3.  Question:  “What do you like about the iPhone?”

What are some ways that have worked for you to make authentic connections when networking?


Breaking the Ice Online: How to Connect on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter

“How do you break the ice online–on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter?”

I asked that question on LinkedIn recently and share the responses below.  Add your tips in the comment area!

The answers I’ve received so far generally involve 3 ways of making a connection:

      1. What’s in common?  Mention what you have in common (an interest, a person, work) Do research if necessary.
      2. Compliment. Give a sincere compliment about something (website, blog, article, etc.)
      3. Be direct. Say what you want or what you have to offer.

Vitalia Bryn-Pundyk: Common Connections and “Phrases of Flattery”

“Here is what I do when I connect virtually:

When I am on someone’s profile, I look for who else they may be connected with to see if there is someone else I know that we have in common. If there is someone I spot that we have in common and I have not yet connected with them, I just simply remind them how I know them and ask to connect with them. This really helps to expand my networking circle.

If it’s someone I don’t know but would like to get to know, I give them an honest reason why. I comment on what it is about them that I respect, like, or admire. I like to call this ‘Phrases of Flattery”. This flattery must be honest–(anyone can spot a phony miles away). I find that most of the time when you come across genuine in your compliments and show a sincere interest in others, the other individual will respond in kind.”

Ed Estlow: Ditto!

“I simply tell them how I know of them (through whom, or their work in the public arena, etc.), offer a true and heartfelt compliment on their work (only if it really is true), and express a desire to “keep in touch here on LinkedIn/FB/T.

I’ve reached out to several people on both FB and LI that way and so far it’s worked well. I don’t do Twitter much, but then you can follow people there without their active permission.”

Gina Abudi: Find a Common Interest
“I try to find a connection between us – maybe an interest, group we both belong to, an article they wrote that I read, a presentation of theirs I attended, etc. – and use that to break the ice and ask to connect to talk further.”

Chuck Carstensen: Ditto on Finding Something in Common

“I connect based on what we have in common. If I don’t know the person, I connect based on who we know, what we do or common interests we have.”

Lisa Burnside: Depends on the Situation and Do Research!

“That really depends on the situation. However, assuming it is not someone you have met face-to-face nor someone you have been introduced to by someone in common – I would find out what we do have in common and use it to break the ice. Also, I don’t play games and appreciate those that don’t either. So, if there is something I feel I can do for them or something they can do for me, I come right out and state it. Always putting in a compliments about something, picture, website, blog, etc. You should always research those you don’t know before just connecting.”

Trevor Kohlhepp: Touch Base

‘I personally find it best to just touch base with each new contact that I become “friends” with, regardless of the network we found each other on. I often do this with a simple thank you and looking forward to networking message. (Example: “Thank you for the connection Diane, I am looking forward to networking with you and seeing what opportunities come from it!”)

I find this approach to break the ice letting the new contact know that 1, I am a real persona and 2, I am open and available to network with. I often find that if I don’t make this initial message I never hear from the new contact and never have the opportunity to network with them.”

Joe Roberts: Twitter is Easiest

“Twitter is the easiest of the three to “break the ice,” due to the built-in brevity and the “open conversation” nature of the service. I have found that simply responding to a question posed by the potential follower, or re-tweeting and commenting on something they have tweeted, is a good first step at putting yourself on his/her radar screen and building rapport.

It is easy to make yourself both visible and useful to those with whom you want to connect on Twitter, so I’d suggest starting there if that is one of your options.”

Joanne Funch:  Be Direct

“How I break the ice is by being pretty direct.  I tell people exactly why I have sought them out whether it be for their expertise, learn more about them or their business or as a potential client I’d like to do business with.  I believe most professional people respect and honest, straight forward question.”

Henri Vanroelen: Ditto on the No-Frills Approach

“Just explain why you are contacting them. In the on-line world there’s no need to chit-chat in the first contact.”

Tom Butz: Ask Questions and Make Comments

“Questions / comments strike people of different groups in unique ways – know the audience you are seeking and assume no one else is viewing (can’t worry about other’s reactions)

Many, many see but don’t respond – assume there is a silent impact

I find Facebook the most interactive in terms of reaction to postings – Twitter is more like a multi-dimensional news feed and LinkedIn is less reactive

Speak of that which invokes huge passion in you, and it will have a greater chance of impacting others.

Be vulnerable and honest in your communication.”

FREE ebook: Talking to Strangers (and Friends) about Your New Business

No fooling!  I’m giving you something absolutely free with no strings attached!

On 3/14, Tanya Smith and Tai Goodwin interviewed me on their BlogTalk Radio show, Your First 20 Clients for a segment, How to Talk to Strangers (and Friends) About Your New Business.

My previous 9 posts were based on the  audio of the show.

I’ve compiled the posts into a free ebook!  Choose your format:

For more tips and techniques on conversation and networking, order my book, Small Talk Big Results: Chit Chat Your Way to Success! Available at Amazon.com (print and Kindle), at Barnes and Noble (Nook) and at the ibookstore

Get another FREE short ebook, How to Deal with People Who Drive You Crazy! (14 pages, PDF) when you sign up for my monthly newsletter.  Sign up now!

Use FORM to Keep the Conversation Going!

You’ve said “Hello.”   Now what?

One of the best approaches I learned long ago for building rapport and getting the other person to talk is the FORM approach.  FORM is an acronym that stands for Family, Occupation, Recreation and Motivation.  The “FOR” talk helps build rapport before you delve into the “M,” what motivates a person.  Start with “FOR”ing people and work up to “FORM”ing them.  When you find out what motivates a person, you can better connect with them and sell yourself, your ideas or your products.  FORM can be adapted to business, social and dating situations!

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From Geek to Guru: 14 Networking Tips for Shy People

In my early 20’s, I was your typical geek.  I was a recent engineering grad.  I worked with engineers.  I was married to an engineer.  All my friends were engineers.  By education, experience and relationships, I was doomed to networking hell—I was surrounded by people not known for making small talk.  But, I have overcome my geek beginnings, and while I wouldn’t really call myself a networking guru, I do have a few tips to offer for shy people and even for the not-so-shy when it comes to navigating networking events.

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