If you're in business for your Self, whether you're selling computers, baby wipes, joy, musical theater, paintings or hot stone massages, you need to talk to people about what you do and what you offer. That, my friends, is what networking is all about. I know, I know, networking can be a drag. I know you dread attending networking events. But I'm here to tell you that if you promote your Self, your art or your business and if the idea of talking to strangers about your Self, your art or your business makes you want to run away, you're not alone.
Lots of us avoid networking due to fear and anxiety.
The social anxiety that we call shyness has escalated in the United States over the past two decades. An astonishing 50% now admit to chronic shyness (up from 40% several decades ago) and another 40% say they have been shy in the past, while 15% admit to feeling shy in certain situations. Only 5% of people say they have never been shy.
Kind of makes you feel normal, right??
Newsflash: You ARE normal (and AWESOME of course, but that is fodder for another post...). So just suck it up and get out there. Start networking and start talking.
Here are some talking points to make your small talk less painful:
- Know that small talk is THE most important kind of talk.
- Instead of spending a networking opportunity talking about your Self, listen to other people and ask them about them Selves.
- Small talk is the warm-up to big business. Talk about current events, sports and hobbies, family and of course, business.
- Catch up with current events before any networking event. This is a safe area for conversation.
- Ask LOTS of questions, such as:
- “How did you get started?”
- “What challenges does your business have?”
- “What trends do you see in your business?”
- Recognize that it is far more important to be interested than interesting. In any conversation consider W.A.I.T., an acronym for “Why am I talking?”
- Talk in terms of other people’s interests. Be a good listener and encourage others to talk about them Selves. We all love talking about our Selves! Let it flow – it is the only way you’re going to find out about them and their business challenges.
- Ask the right questions (open rather than closed) and you will gather as much information as you need to see what opportunities may exist at a later stage.
- Answer the question, “What do you do?” with enthusiasm. This is a very important moment when starting to build a business relationship.
- Create a verbal tease by giving out information in sound bites. As long as they continue to ask questions, you know you’re on the right track.
We learn so much more from listening than from talking.
Next time you network, try out these tips. Then let me know how it went!