It takes a lot of energy to meet people, engage in conversations, listen carefully, give your attention and to be "on". Some people are naturally comfortable at it. Most people struggle to do it. Like all things that you do and want to do well, you have to psych yourself up for the task. You have to get yourself prepared and in a positive frame of mind. Nothing good happens when you are unprepared AND have a negative or uncaring attitude. Very rare when great things happen when you "wing it". When you do nothing to prepare yourself for something you find difficult. In fact, it is more likely you not only disappoint yourself and leave some lost opportunities along the way.
When I was younger I used to think Robin Williams was great at ad libbing. He could do magic in a moment. I also used to think that some people were born with the ability to speak extemporaneously. I also used to believe the myth that some people had the DNA to network and meet people. I have learned these are all fallacies. Of course, some people have more confidence, presence, and the gift of gab--but ANYONE can learn these things. Robin Williams is a very bright performer, after all he went to Julliard! But his routines are well rehearsed and planned. His gift is revealing them as if they weren't.
Failing to prepare is preparing to fail. John Wooden
Here are some quick proven steps to boost your confidence, readiness, and ultimately your performance (this is beginning to sound like some of the spam we all get:) Stay with me!
1. Plan and Prepare: You are going to yet another event, reception, cocktail party, company function, conference, seminar and you want to network well.
- Visualize what you think networking success would be. Begin with the end in mind. What are my goals? Do I want to just take some small steps to increase my confidence? Is there information I am seeking? Expertise I need? People from particular orgs or companies I want to compare notes with?
- Google people you want to meet to find commonalities and interesting facts. This will arm you with a way of breaking the ice.
- Think about people who can introduce you to them. Being introduced is the most credible, simplest and stress free way of meeting people.
Being well prepared, even partially prepared will give you focus and more confidence.
2. Psych Yourself Up!: Before the event, start to get yourself in the right frame of ;mind to be your best self. Other people don't care about the bad day you have had. Get ready to make a good first impression. You need to be on--only you knows what that;feels like.You attract to your life whatever you give time, attention, and focus—positive or negative. I would add, and physically manifest.
- Look your best. If you look good you will be more confident and more comfortable.
- Energize yourself. This is why getting into better physical shape makes a difference, but for now you need to use your nerves or anxiety to be channeled into your focus and personal excitement for the challenge.
3. Power Pose!: Immediately before the event, take some advice from Harvard researcher, Amy Cuddy. She has shown that your hormones shift with your physical presence. Your anxiety and your confidence levels change with your body language. Your internal chemistry mirrors your posture. In other words, when your body is open and tall, so is your energy and presence. When you fold yourself--arms and legs-- and become smaller, more fetal like, you come off weaker and less impressively. Here are two poses that you can do to boost your energy! Just 2 minutes will positively change your hormonal chemistry. Do these exercises privately :) --they help me before I give a big speech.
- Raise your hands above your head in a victory pose. Even blind people who have never seen this pose use it to express their joy and success.
- Hands on hips like superman or wonder woman.
- Relax and slow down. Nothing worse than feeling rushed or in a hurry. Try to enjoy the event and the conversations you have. Don't let your goals get in the way of your experience and the attention you give to others.
- Smile. I know it is obvious, but look like you are happy to meet people. Just the act of smiling will make you feel better and warm others.
- Body language is positive. Don't fold up and unintentionally look unapproachable.
- Be interested and then become interesting. Listen. Let the other person lead. Ask them questions. Engage them then tell your story or make your pitch.
- Remember names and ask to continue conversations where appropriate.
5. Post-mortem: Critique your process, progress, and performance. Appreciate what you accomplished and make notes on how to improve. Follow-up on the people you met, ideas you gathered and commitments you made.
- Make notes to yourself. People you met that require follow-up or for future reference. Use the back of the business cards or enter into contact database.
- Send e-mails. For those you want to continue the conversation, send them an e-mail.
- Send out information you promised. Every good networker provides as much info and help as they get. Mail or e-mail what you promised or suggested.
Develop your networking confidence by practice and preparation. Like everything you want to improve upon, invest your time and energy--and psych yourself up!
Thanks for reading. John