Networking isn’t always a skill that comes easily to natural introverts, but in business and life generally, most success comes through talking to others and involving them in your ideas, plans or projects. That is what happens when we network – we connect with others.
Jen Harwood works with many business owners, sales professionals and executives in the area of networking and sales growth. She outlines seven ways you can overcome shyness and get fantastic results.
1. Be yourself
People often become intimidated and nervous because they think a successful networker is the happy butterfly. This is not true. Let's face it, the happy butterfly people love to talk and someone has got to listen to them! Yes, quieter people have the advantage in networking as they are usually listening far more than they are talking. So at an event, as people talk and move around, you will be able to hear opportunity, understand what people need and be in a position to do something about it.
2. Set intentions
When you attend a networking event always have an intention. This is vitally important, as it is your own secret mission. Setting intentions can be easy and fun. They can be big and small. The intention you set reminds you the whole time why you are there and compels you into action to make sure you get it.
3. Pre-event research
If you want to avoid saying embarrassing things at an event because you have been too overwhelmed by coming to the event in the first place and are nervous to speak, do a little bit of research beforehand.
4. Speak up
When you hear in conversation an opportunity or an idea that fits into your area of knowledge or business, speak up. That is your time to say something. It might be a question, statement of fact or opinion.
5. Focus questions
To start a conversation, always have several focus questions that you know off by heart that will open up conversation and more importantly direct the conversation towards your area of expertise and intention for the event. For example, say you had the intention of meeting three people at an event that you could do business with. Your memorised focus question could be… ‘So, what’s the biggest challenge you are currently dealing with in your company?’ Not every person is going to provide relevant answers to your line of work or interest. They may not be a potential lead; however, they are going to find out about you and what your expertise is (which is excellent) and you are going to find out some very interesting answers and information about the people you meet.
6. Direct conversation
Many times we get caught up in someone else’s story about an adventure, holiday or mishap. While many stories are interesting, there will be times when you are bored, annoyed or frustrated that this one person is talking so much. Learning how to direct conversation is a handy skill as you can gently move the focus off the other person and create group discussion or an opportunity for you to speak. To direct the conversation, ask a focus question when there is a natural pause in the discussion. Say quietly to the person or group… ‘I have a question I’d like to ask, do you mind if we take the conversation in a different direction?’
7. Use business cards
Business cards are the essential tool for successful networking. Many people don’t like giving their cards to others because it’s a ‘pushy’ thing to do. One way to get around this is to ask the other person for their card first. Simply saying… ‘Do you have a card?’ will work and if they are interested in you they will ask you for yours. The other essential element to business cards to take your business cards with you everywhere you go.