Many people with whom I’ve worked as a coach or mentor have extraordinary leadership skills and executive talents, but they still get tongue-tied during networking situations. Being great at business doesn’t mean that you won’t feel awkward during social situations.
In fact, lots of today’s leaders have something to be desired when it comes to social gracefulness and effectiveness. You don’t need that stuff to earn your MBA. Most companies don’t have adequate development programs to cover these important skills. The majority of leaders do not even go out of their way to learn proper business etiquette, much less effective networking techniques.
But those are vital skills that make the difference between career stagnation and promotion acceleration. So here are some valuable networking insights – particularly geared toward introverts.
Game-Changing Networking Skills
Enhanced networking skills just aren’t on everyone’s learning and development agenda. But that’s despite the fact that we all know that successful networking is of the most essential tools in any leader’s repertoire. Without it your potential is hamstrung. But with it you can unleash a real game-changer!
Harvest Your Social Media Rewards
One explanation for this big disconnect is that people have the misguided belief that online social media is a substitute for face-to-face networking. But what’s the value of social media unless you convert all of those great online connections into an offline relationship?
Prepare to Network
If you knew you were going to meet a high-value potential client, you’d probably do your homework. You’d find out where they went to college, for example, in case you share the same alma mater. Maybe you’d find out what their favorite charities are or whether they love jogging or fly fishing. If you know whom you’re likely to meet at a networking event, read up on them. That preparation could enable you to make a lasting, powerfully memorable first impression!
Is there a particular person you really want to meet? Reach out to them beforehand on the event page, LinkedIn, or Facebook. Let them know you’re attending the function and would love to have the opportunity to meet them. Or if I’m already at the event I’ll just walk up and tell them that I’m really honored to meet them. You can add something like “I admire your work!” Everyone opens up and beams when they hear that kind of wonderful compliment!
You Can Do It!
You’ll be calmer and happier if you enter with your best foot forward. So take a deep breath. Check your doubtful and less confident mental chatter at the door. Remember the tips I’ve given you for starting a stimulating and fun conversation. Trust me – no one knows you are nervous but you!
One thing introverts usually misunderstand is that they don’t really have to do much talking. The majority of people at these events are rather extroverted, so your job is really a cinch! People are super comfortable when it comes to talking about the subject they know best – namely, themselves. Give them the opening and then they’ll do all the talking!
Your Elevator Speech
Of course they’ll soon want you to reciprocate. That’s why it’s good to have a 15-second, 2-3 sentence or sound bite ready to share. Here are a couple of examples:
“Hi, I’m Jackie. I’m an investment account executive for a local bank, although my academic background is in communication. We lend to lots of start-up companies and small businesses.”
“Nice to meet you. I’m Richard, and I work for an ad agency, primarily helping entrepreneurs and corporations develop their online marketing platforms. Do you know lots of people at this event?”
Craft your intro speech right away and update it as needed. It’s a great item for your toolkit because you can repurpose it often to sound poised while explaining who you are and what it is you do.
Connecting vs. Selling
Don’t you just hate it when someone tries to give you the hard sell on the pretense of networking? You stand there hoping someone will come along and rescue you or that your phone will ring and give you an alibi for excusing yourself to take the call. Remember, this is connecting – not selling!
The Geography of Common Ground
Look for common ground. That’s a path toward a longer journey together. Perhaps you grew up in the same part of the country, both have kids, joined the same fraternity, or enjoy playing golf or tennis. There are so many things to discover about someone. TIP: But to stay off the rugged terrain, I always steer clear of the hot button topics of politics, sex, and religion!
Practice before the big event. Do it on the subway and on the plane. Strike up a conversation with the person standing in line with you at Starbucks. Remember, this is a learned skill and the more you practice the easier it becomes! Building your network equals building your net worth!
As a pioneering and visionary innovator, Sarah is a certified professional image consultant and brand strategist, speaker, trainer and author. Her company, Illustra Consulting, provides leading-edge image and brand management strategies for top leaders and high achievers who wish to take their career to the next level. She also delivers innovative and inspiring corporate workshops to assist large organizations in strengthening their corporate brand.
Copyright © 2012, Sarah Hathorn, AICI CIP, CPBS
1-800-267-3245, [email protected]
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