How to avoid networking nightmares

There are a lot of us who dread networking situations because we struggle to speak with strangers, and end up in a vicious cycle of anxiety about how we’ll come across. Writing for We Are The City, Simon reveals how to avoid these networking nightmares.

Easing the discomfort

I was recently working with a friend who had left a company he’d been with for fifteen years, and was trying hard to establish himself with his new boss and colleagues. In his previous role, the company operated on a principle of ‘who you know’ being as important as ‘what you know’, so he knew how important networking was, but it didn’t make the experience any more bearable. I was impressed by his pursuit of a way to ease the discomfort of networking, and together, we devised a step-by-step process that would help him network more comfortably and successfully.

Here is the plan we created:

My Name Is

It’s surprising how often saying our own name is a real hurdle when speaking to new people. You’d assume it to be the most deeply ingrained piece of information we have, and therefore the easiest to vocalise, but it often gets caught in the throat. So rehearse introducing yourself, and work on saying your name with confidence and clarity that will be heard and understood first time.

All Facts, No Fluff

Your opening statement to a new person should be easy to process. At this early stage of the game, your audience is not yet engaged, so now is not the time to go putting your job into elaborate words. If I were to introduce myself to people as a Voice Unlocker, at best I’d confuse people, and at worst, come across as deliberately misleading. A simple “I am a presentation and public speaking coach” suffices. This way the person I am speaking to instantly understands what I do, and can judge where the conversation goes from there based on the information I’ve given. As humans, we don’t like to have to read into things, so keep it short and simple.

My Niche

Now it’s time to narrow it down and really specify what it is you do, so give thought to your niche in business. I tend to address my own niche as “I specialise in working with technical experts who think of themselves as reflective or introverted.” In these few words, I have communicated exactly what my skillset is and how it is put to use, and this allows my listener to immediately identify my place – if any – in their professional network.

I Believe

Now bring all of these important elements together and finish up your introduction with a declaration about your attitude to work, a little motto. My conclusion, for example, is usually, “Everyone’s best version of themselves is always good enough.” Don’t worry – you don’t have to come up with anything hugely profound that will make people re-evaluate their whole lives, but it should reflect your beliefs and attitudes, not only as a professional, but as a person. Overall, the purpose of your finishing tagline is to project yourself as a decision maker – the sort of person the other professionals around you will feel compelled to partner with.

These steps are to help you devise a strong and intriguing introduction for use at networking events that will not only put you at ease, but approach new people in a way that will engage them and set the ball rolling. Your end product should consist of a couple of sentences at most, and ideally should be recited comfortably in one breath. These directions have worked wonders for my friend, whose networking life has been revolutionised by adjusting his perspective and giving him the tools to make the most of making contacts.

Read the full article on We Are The City here