Are you feeding your fear of networking by avoiding events like the SA Woman Summit?
You are not alone. Many people don’t feel they have the skills to approach strangers. They suffer from imposter syndrome and don’t feel comfortable talking about themselves.
The problem is if you avoid what you fear, you actually feed the fear. You miss out on opportunities to share your ideas, to meet new people, to talk about your business and you will never be heard.
And you deserve to be heard.
Worst still, people have told me they have spent an entire networking event sitting at the bar hoping that someone will approach them. By the end of the event, they haven’t spoken to anyone, except the bar staff.
Let’s talk about what you fear the most about networking.
Key reasons include:
- social anxiety,
- it feels fake and contrived,
- being judged,
- not knowing what to talk about with strangers.
Let me show you how to feel more empowered at a networking event with seven easy tips.
Tip #1: Do some research about who is attending
If you have information on who is attending, you can prepare yourself. You can decide who you want to approach, how you can connect with them and questions to ask.
- Speaking to someone who has attended similar events
- Contacting the organisers to gather information
- Taking note of conversations on the SA Woman Facebook page and use these as conversation starters
- Scanning the registration list when you arrive.
Tip #2: Arrive early before groups have formed
Arriving at networking events can be overwhelming. Some find it difficult to work out who to speak to. They hate the idea of interrupting a conversation, especially when people are huddled in groups. They don’t feel confident initiating conversation and assume that individuals don’t want to be interrupted.
If you arrive early, chances are groups will not have formed yet. If you can look beyond your fear, you are more likely to notice that you are not the only person who is standing alone, looking awkward and unconfident.
Tip #3: Be bold – go ahead and approach who you want to meet
Don’t assume that others at networking events won’t be interested in speaking to you. Ditch the imposter syndrome and realise that people will be interested in meeting and potentially doing business with you.
It might be surprising to realise that others feel just as vulnerable and ill-equipped as you do. They may be waiting for others to initiate because it is easier for them. They might be very grateful if you rescue them, and it will be empowering for you to do so.
Tip #4: Be yourself and be authentic
If you have a strong belief in your business and what you represent, this will come across genuinely. If you are pretending to be someone whom you are not, the experience is likely to feel contrived for you and for those who you are attempting to meet.
If you are passionate and enthusiastic about your business, this can be contagious and will help you to make connections and build relationships.
Tip #5: Ask questions that encourage positive conversation
When initiating conversations, be prepared to break the ice. This could include small-talk about the event, the food, a guest speaker, the weather; as a way to ease into a conversation before talking about your business.
In her Tedx talk, ‘You are Contagious’ (2017), Vanessa Van Edwards recommends starting a conversation with questions that influence your audience to ‘flip into optimism’.
Examples might include:
‘Working on anything exciting lately?’,
‘Have you got any holidays coming up?’ or
‘Anything exciting happen today?’.
Asking this type of question will make you more memorable as you have asked your audience to share information that makes them feel positive. On the flipside, if you start a conversation with ‘Have you been busy lately’? – it is less likely to prompt a positive response.
Prepare generic open questions for moments of awkward silence. If you use closed questions requiring a single word answer like ‘yes’ or ‘no’, it can be more difficult to maintain the conversation. For example, ‘have you attended one of these events before?’ could be better phrased as ‘how good do you think this event is compared to others you have been to?’.
Tip #6: Listen carefully and be in the moment
Be prepared to show sincere interest in the people you meet and they are likely to see you as authentic and trustworthy.
Use non-verbal cues that suggest you are genuinely interested and actively listening. Most importantly maintain direct eye contact and smile. This will help others to feel comfortable.
If your mind is elsewhere, others will be able to tell and won’t feel valued or perceive you as genuine.
Tip #7: Look for opportunities to help others to make connections
Try to relax and enjoy building new connections and relationships rather than focussing on hard selling.
You will be surprised by the benefits that come to you when you offer support or facilitate a connection between others. If you help them by introducing them to someone you know, they are more likely to remember you and to recommend you in the future.
CONNECT WITH Kerry:
Facebook: Complete Communication Coach
LinkedIn: Kerry Pienaar
Complete Communication Coach
My name is Kerry Pienaar and I have had my business Complete Communication Coach for 3 years. I still have to pinch myself sometimes that I am finally doing what I love! I offer one on one coaching and run group workshops in-house for various organisations on public speaking and confident communication. One of my key goals for this year is to publish my 1st book; which is a celebration of all I have learnt from my business and includes many inspirational client stories. My passion is to empower women, by providing tools and strategies so that your voices can be heard with confidence.
There is nothing more rewarding than seeing women walk out of my door feeling more confident than they did when they entered – that is my mission!
My inspiration for this blog is that SA Woman members have mentioned being nervous about attending networking events, and in particular the Summit and Awards night. I thought it would be timely for me to provide some tips to support those of you who avoid such events or feel inadequate when you attend. The Facebook conversations on SA Woman demonstrate how incredibly supportive this community is, so when you attend a face to face event like the summit, you can feel confident that you will be looked after and that fellow members will have your back.
I hope you enjoy my blog “Seven easy tips to overcome your fear and to feel more empowered when networking”
Can’t wait to meet you in person at the Summit!