The power of a great network can’t be underestimated especially when it results in new business opportunity, new clients, the next job, and so forth.
“Networking is the key to success in business” says Keith Ferrazzi, author of Never Eat Alone, a book about the power of relationship building and networking.
Someone said to me recently “Your net worth is the quality of your connections. It’s all about who you know”.
The reality for most of us though is that networking takes us out of our comfort zones. Why? Because you’re putting yourself in front of people who are forming their impressions of you quickly. You’re vulnerable. You want to fit in, be liked and rated well.
How to overcome feeling nervous or anxious
According to UK research¹, about 50% of people in the room at a networking event will be feeling anxious.
Here are five steps to help you feel more positive, confident and courageous.
1. Choose a great attitude
Rather than deciding how it’s going to be before you get there (which is usually negative), instead be open, curious, and create it the way you want it. To do this:
- Be present to others rather than focused on your inner voice
- Be interested rather than being interesting
- Give before you get – show someone how you can help them first
2. Build rapport quickly
Networking is all about building trust fast, so engage in open ended questions that find common ground and build a conversation from there, for example; “What’s your interest in coming along tonight?” is a good starter question.
Take the effort to get to know someone genuinely and learn what they care about, past the “what do you do?” question – even if it’s a short conversation.
Show the real you. It’s the only way you’ll create meaningful exchanges and create the potential for an ongoing authentic relationship.
3. Have an answer for the “what do you do question?”
It’s a good idea to have a couple of different ways of answering this question depending on who’s asking, how formal your conversation is and when in the conversation you’re asked. For example, two frames for your answer are:
- Informal / high energy: Talk about what you’re passionate about and the difference you make (emotional answer) when you’re already engaged in conversation.
- Formal / low energy: Talk about what you do in the context of your expertise, experience or problems you solve (rational answer) if it’s the first thing you’re asked when you’ve just met someone.
4. Know how to join a group
Joining a group engaged in conversation can be awkward, especially if you’re not immediately acknowledged and welcomed in. The secret is to listen. Listen to the conversation and think about how you can add value to it. A great way to contribute is to pose a question – a good quality question will help establish your credibility with the group, especially if it leads the conversation forward.
5. Know how to leave a group
Always acknowledge the person/people you’re leaving. Here are a couple of examples:
“It’s been good to meet you. I’d better pop around and meet a few more people before the end of the evening” or;
“It’s been great chatting with you. I’m sure you’d appreciate getting to meet other people here tonight too, take care and enjoy the rest of your evening”.
In conclusion, networking well is worth the investment of your time and effort, especially if you follow through and continue to build the relationship by giving meaningful value.
What can you add into your networking toolkit?