Do you struggle with networking fears? Part of the process of becoming a woman in leadership is the ability to effectively network, both within your organization as well as in the community. However, that isn’t necessarily an easy task for some.
If you struggle knowing how to effectively network, if talking to strangers at a meeting or chamber event gives you chills, you may benefit from a few tips offered by our guest blogger, Deborah Chaddock Brown.
Deborah recently attended a workshop in Scottsdale, AZ led by Martha Rockwell, owner of Confidence Builder and a Licensed Career Coach. Here is what Deborah learned:
First, thank you, JJ, for allowing me to share some of the tips I learned recently while attending the workshop Breaking the Ice. Martha provided each participant with a workbook and during the course of the one hour session, we learned some easy to replicate tips. We also practiced a little role play.
There are a number of times during the course of our career that we are thrown into situations where we know very few, if any, of the attendees. For some this is an easy exercise. Those women enter a room with confidence, arm out stretched to the nearest business professional, with a smile on her face and a ready greeting on her lips.
However, for others, this is a more challenging endeavor.
Determine Your Networking Goal
According to Martha, we must first determine our purpose and goal for attending the event. Are we looking to meet and mingle, seek job opportunities, create awareness about us as a personal brand or simply hoping to make a few acquaintances?
If we have learned anything from Kevin Bacon, it is that the number of people in our inner circle determines our ability to connect with those that might help advance our career. Although we may be six degrees away from the person we want to meet, the more valuable our network, the quicker that connection process can take place.
So why are you attending the event?
Overcoming Your Networking Fears
What holds you back from confidently approaching those you may not know? What keeps you from even attending the event?
- Afraid of rejection
- Afraid of failure
- Insecurity – not comfortable in your own skin
- Lack of motivation
“Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?”
– Robert Browning
Martha said “Networking is an integral part of your life. Whether you are looking for a new job or career, it is a learned skill.”
That is the good news – effective networking isn’t a trait you are born with (or born lacking) but is something everyone can learn if they are motivated.
5 Rules for Networking
Martha provided five rules for effectively networking, especially at an event where you don’t know any of the participants.
- Never sit down. When you are standing you are easier to approach. Sitting down with arms crossed sends the unconscious message that you are done talking, so just don’t bother. Whether this is true or not, standing up and moving about the room is far more effective if you are looking to make connections with others.
- Shake hands. Give a firm handshake, using their name and looking them in the eye. Don’t stare them down, but do look them in the eye. This has the effect of letting them know you value their time and what they are about to say. Make good use of their name tag by using their name frequently. This helps you remember their name and also serves to make them comfortable.
- Learn something about them. This isn’t the race to see who has the most business cards at the end of the evening but rather who makes a true connection. Using open ended questions helps move the conversation forward. Who is their ideal customer? Why is their industry of importance to them? What do they hope to learn at this particular event?
- The old adage “we have two ears and one mouth for a reason” is especially true when networking. Listen twice as much as you talk. You want to be the person others seek out because you are “such a great conversationalist.” Don’t be afraid to take a few notes on the back of their business card to help you remember.
- Be sincere. Use strong listening skills; body language – leaning in, nodding, taking notes, asking follow-up questions, make eye contact and use a soothing tone of voice. These are all great ways to show the person you are speaking with that you are truly interested in what they have to say. Resist the urge to glance around the room or think of what you might say next when you are listening.
If appropriate, suggest another meeting in the future – coffee, lunch. You have started the process of building a relationship with this person. It is through our relationships that we have the opportunity to advance our career.
Walking Up to a Group of People
Often, when you attend networking events, you will encounter small groups of two and three people who are already having a conversation. Rather than just wait for a single person to walk by that you can meet with, Martha offers a couple of great tips for joining a conversation already in progress.
First, move close enough to the group to be able to listen to what they are talking about. Once you have a grasp of the conversation, add something of value so they understand you are also interested in that topic.
You might consider leading with a question. How did they come to that point of view? Where did they read that statement? By asking a question, you immediately engage with at least one of the members of the group. Then offer your hand in greeting and follow the previously mentioned rules of networking.
Did You Know That?
Finally, Martha shared a few thoughts worth considering in the art of networking:
- 75% of jobs are obtained through your network
- You need a business networking strategy
- Make a list of your contacts – LinkedIn is a great resource for this exercise to uncover those in your network who might be your best asset in furthering your career goals
- Research your local networking events for those that will best suit your goals
- Be a connector. By helping others connect to people who will help advance their career, you also help your own. People remember those that have been helpful.
Networking doesn’t have to be intimidating. If you are really uncomfortable, consider attending a networking event in a neighboring town where you can practice the rules. The more you practice, the more comfortable you will become.
Confidence is what sets you apart from others in the room. You can do this!
Deborah Chaddock Brown, owner of AllWrite Ink, an Internet writing firm, has been actively participating in social media since time began or 2005, whichever came first. Before opening AllWrite Ink, Deborah worked in the corporate world of retail, most recently as the Director of Communication for a billion dollar, multi-unit retail company. She brings a wealth of company knowledge to every discussion, incorporating her understanding of the importance of the bottom line with her passion for writing Words People Read. To hire Deborah as a speaker/trainer contact her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.