Let me know your thoughts on this article - it's a recent Ezine submission and I'm crossing my fingers that it's helpful
There are certain people who look comfortable in any situation and they seem to be able to talk to anyone. If you want to have that same confidence, it can be yours with a little preparation and a lot of positive thinking.
Do you hear the word networking and feel a sense of panic at the thought of having to introduce yourself to strangers? Would you rather floss your teeth than go to the cocktail reception prior to the symphony? Many people feel the same way about networking that they do about public speaking. It’s understandable to be nervous, but your future in business depends on your becoming a ‘career networker’. Whether you are the business owner, business representative, or a job seeker, you need to be comfortable meeting new people and finding out what they are all about. So put your worries aside, and use these tips and tricks to help transition that stage fright into your new title of a career networker. You CAN do it! (Remember, you are not alone.)
Walk into the room as confident as you walk into your favorite restaurant or shop. Whether you know every person there, or not a single soul, walk in like you own the place. Hold your head high, shoulders straight, and walk with purpose and poise. Tell yourself that everyone in the room is looking at you because they want to meet you. You’re the celebrity they came here to see; you are respected and admired. As time goes on, this will be true. You will have the confidence everyone else wishes they had and they will want to meet you to find out the secret.
Grab a name tag and don’t be sheepish about it. More people will approach you if they know your name. People who recognize you by face will come up to you instead of avoiding you because they forgot your name. Write your name loud and proud, because remember – everyone wants to talk to you. Your name tag should be worn on your right so it is easily visible to anyone shaking your hand. This way, they can see your name as they make eye contact.
Walk up to any group of three or more (groups of two are more intimate and may feel like you are an intruder, groups of three or more are more welcoming) and extend your hand to the most interesting person, look them in the eye and introduce yourself. End your introduction by asking “and you are?” and be prepared to ask them one or all of the following questions to break the ice:
“Where are you from?”
“What brings you here?”
“Do you have a favorite vacation destination; I’ve been thinking about a trip and am looking for ideas?”
“Tell me about your hobbies…”
People love talking about themselves and answering your questions. Be prepared, they are going to ask you questions too. Have your ‘elevator pitch’ prepared ahead of time. No one has time for a long and drawn out story or explanation of what you do or who you are. You should choose a few sentences that describe you quickly. Think of your elevator pitch as an extension of your mission/vision statement (personal or professional). Humans are interested in immediate gratification, so make sure your pitch includes something that answers ‘what’s in it for me?’ to the person you are talking to. For example, if you sell cosmetics, be sure to tell them that your line of cosmetics can save them time and money and help them look years younger. They’ll be more intrigued by that sentence than they would be if you touted how wealthy you are because of the great line of cosmetics you sell to customers around the globe.
Don’t linger too long. This is the basic supply and demand theory. Chat for a bit, set the ground work for a meaningful relationship, but then move on. The more people you talk to, the more opportunities you will have for yourself and your business. If you spend a short amount of time and leave them wanting more, you make yourself more valuable. Continue these techniques as you mingle around the room. Set a goal to meet X number of new people per event. This number should be a percentage of attendees and the key word is NEW. Do not spend the event talking solely to people you already know. This is a chance to meet new people. It may be more comfortable to talk to your circle of friends, but comfort is not the key to success (unless you’re selling shoes or mattresses, but that’s a story for another day).
Last but not least, when you go to these type of events you should go alone (see why I saved this one for last?). Yes, I said go alone – as in, all by yourself. If you go with someone else, your tendency is to stick together and chat to one another. Remember the instruction before about not approaching groups of two? If you go to a networking event with another person you just made yourself 50% less approachable. Going alone will force you out of your comfort zone as well as encouraging others to chat with you. They’ll see that you came in alone and will happily welcome you into their group. It also sends a very clear signal that you are confident and self-assured.
Now go get them! The more people you know, the better chance you have at being successful as a business owner, professional, or as a job seeker. Start with your elevator pitch today and then sign up for the next networking opportunity in your area. Practice makes better, so give yourself a break if the first time is a little uncomfortable. Don’t give up. Each opportunity you’ll get more and more confident until YOU are a career networker!