For some, the very thought of networking evokes feelings of fear and overwhelm, and something that should be avoided at all costs.
Yet, in my personal experience and for many clients of mine, networking is a brilliant opportunity to develop and refine your social skills as well as potentially generating interest in a business context. However, these positive outcomes will seem beyond your reach if you walk into an event with a disempowering mindset that sees you unconsciously preparing for failure.
So, how can we shift this negative mindset toward one that allows us to confidently walk into our next networking event? I’ve compiled a list of strategies that can help you make this shift today:
- Reframe your thinking around networking
The most powerful way to feel a greater sense of confidence in these situations is by changing the way you relate to the event toward something that empowers you. If you feel dread at the thought of connecting with a room full of strangers, the association to networking is likely related to feelings of awkwardness and contrived conversation. If you believe this is what it would be like, confirmation bias is likely to come into play, which will work to reinforce this disempowering view, and this negative viewpoint may manifest into reality (aka you will have an abundance of awkward, contrived conversation! Eek!).
Instead, shift your focus toward the positive experiences within networking. The way I like to frame it in my mind is that I’m connecting with other humans (not job titles) whom are all seeking to share and exchange value, and given my unique life experiences, the value I have on offer is individual to me. Based on this, we all ‘network’ on a regular basis – with our colleagues, with new clients, with people at the gym etc. We’re all networking pro’s without even realising it!
From this view, I take the pressure off myself from perfectly delivering my communication to others in this context. I don’t need to ‘try’ to know everything or have the best answer – I know what I know, and irrespective of who I’m connecting with, I have something unique to offer.
Now as a caveat, this should be discerned from wishful thinking or self-deception. I’m not asking you to indulge in false optimism, but rather, to reframe your thinking from the negative aspects to the positive aspects of networking (not set unrealistic expectations which would also be detrimental).
2. Power Pose it Out
How we choose to use our bodies is highly correlated to our emotional state. If you walk into a room with poor posture, walking slow and timidly and with your head and eyes down, you certainly won’t be projecting confidence nor will you feel any sense of confidence within yourself.
The reverse of this, i.e. focusing on good posture can be a small but effective method to help change your outlook. A popular TED talk by Amy Cuddy argues how “Power Posing” can boost feelings of confidence and might even have an impact on our chances for success.
So – consider power posing it out before you walk into that room!
3. Perfect your elevator pitch
It’s inevitable – at some point in the conversation at a networking event, the question of “what do you do” will be posed. Communicating your elevator pitch with confidence will help you make a good impression and reinforce positive communication habits.
Dedicate time to practicing and refining your pitch. Ask a friend to evaluate how you go and offer ways to ensure the pitch works well within a conversational context.
4. Prioritise listening
In this day and age, listening is an art too often forgotten. There’s nothing more off-putting than having a conversation with somebody who doesn’t seem to be fully engaged, who may be distracted by their phone or the environment around them.
Whilst there may be a lot going on in the background, it’s important to make the person you’re connecting with feel heard and understood. Prioritise listening to what they have to say before you cycle through your typical spiel about work.
It’s human nature to want to speak about yourself, so interestingly enough, if you allow the other person to speak about themselves they will likely think you are a fascinating person!
5. Be genuinely interested
Stemming from the previous point, by making a concerted effort to listen to what the other has to say, you’re likely to develop a genuine interest in that person.
I’ve made a habit to always work to uncover a point of commonality with a new person. It may not be within a work context, but it could be a shared history, a love of the same hobby, interests etc. When we find something like this, it becomes easy to develop rapport with that person and enriches the entire networking interaction.
I hope these points have inspired you to reconsider the dreary feelings you have toward networking!
Do you have any other tips that have helped you network with confidence? I would love to hear from you!