If you react like I do, you are not alone. Networking is a necessary skill for success, but one that many of us dread and could most likely use a little improvement on. So I’m bringing you five groundbreaking tips to help you overcome common networking roadblocks and mistakes so that you can network like the boss you are! Let’s jump in!
Tip #1: Stop thinking about it as networking! Networking feels like an obligation – like something I’m supposed to do by just putting myself out there and selling myself. It’s engaging quickly and transactionally with as many people as possible to sell or be sold on ideas. Ugh! Who would want to do that? This isn’t speed dating or a used car lot…so stop showing up to network and start showing up to make friends! Build relationships or have a conversation over a drink or some snacks. Whatever it may be, when you connect with people rather than trying to network, you’ll uncover shared interests, commonalities, and often ways that you can support one another. Naturally building friendships sounds a lot more fun than networking.
Tip #2: Show up with confidence, even if you aren’t feeling confident. Research shows that telling yourself the lie that you are confident, you’ve got this, you are a boss helps you act as if you were. Your brain believes the story you tell it, so go ahead and coach yourself into that space of higher confidence. And, to increase that confident vibe, be sure to wear something that you love and makes you feel comfortable. Heck, even spritz on a little scent – just not too much! According to one study, 90% of women felt more confident when wearing their favorite perfume. It can’t hurt!
Tip #3: Just be yourself! This is key when it comes to starting an authentic relationship. After all, they are networking with you as much as you’re networking with them. It can be difficult to be your authentic self, especially in new environments. But, if you can manage to just be you, you’ll never have to struggle with Imposter Syndrome in that relationship. That person wants to interact with you, work with you – not any facade that you put on to sell them.
Tip #4: Ask questions and let other people do the talking. Listening allows you to identify opportunities and see where your own business might fit in. Plus, listening ingratiates you – who doesn’t need to be heard? Try repeating back what you’ve just listened to using some of the exact phrasing that you’ve heard, and your contact will be amazed. I’ve had people say to me, “Wow, you really get it! It’s like you’re in my head.” Um…nah! They literally just said that! But it’s so rare that we are listened to completely that it’s almost always a pleasant surprise.
Tip #5: Make it easy on other people to start a conversation with you. Try adding the conversation starter to your name tag rather than your company name. For example, mine might read “Ask me about burning my house down” or hiking across Spain or crows…all topics I can tell great stories about and begin to introduce my personality and my background to fellow networkers.
Bonus tip! Vanessa Van Edwards, interpersonal communication and leadership expert, offers her favorite move: the head tilt. As she says, the head tilt is the universal body language sign for “I’m listening.” You can do this when someone is speaking to show that you’re paying attention and you’re excited to meet them. This makes you appear more charismatic.
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