HR & Management

How to conquer your networking fears

4 min read

23 January 2018

We often worry about rambling in front of people we just met. But what if we are just stuck in the habit of talking to people in a certain way, with our networking fears holding us back from forming connections of substance?

A friend of mine recently moved to a new job, still within the property industry and niche he was comfortable with. His 15-year spell with his previous employer instilled in him the principle of it being who you know as well as what you know.

When he started working for a larger firm, he realised he had to quickly establish himself and elevate his profile to the level of his colleagues. The problem revolved around his networking fears. He often told he how he came away terrified of having to make small talk, and of running out of things to say. To him, networking with people he saw and worked with every day was even worse.

But I admired that he knew it was for the sake of a healthy career, which made him intent on finding a way of making networking a more comfortable experience. After all, that is how he would approach any other work-related problem. We worked on the issue together, and came up with a plan that proved to be so successful that he shared it with his wife.

Here are the steps we devised to conquer his networking fears.

My name is…

It is intriguing how easily your own name can get stuck in your throat when you introduce yourself in nerve-wracking situations, or how often we don’t quite say our names audibly enough. When others introduce us, they experience no such problems. Getting used to introducing yourself clearly and confidently is an important step.

All facts, no fluff

The first thing you tell others should be easy to process. At this point in a conversation, nobody is interested in hearing you embellish your job title or working style. In my case, were I to introduce myself as a “voice unlocker”, it would waste people’s time and patience. By telling people I am a presentation and public speaking coach, we are immediately on the same wavelength. Our brains prefer simple terms.

My niche

While introducing yourself in simple, accurate terms, address your niche too. For example: “I work with technical experts who often regard themselves as reflective or introverted.” A clear and engaging niche should focus on a group of people, location or specific field of work.

By narrowing down what you do and who you are, others don’t have to spend long considering where you fit in and what use, if any, you could be to them.

I believe

Round off your introduction with a statement about what you do. Mine would be: “Everyone’s best version of themselves is always good enough.” Your conclusion doesn’t have to be philosophical or revolutionary – its power is in the fact that decision-makers would rather make decisions with other decision-makers.

Concluding your introduction with such a statement lets the person know you are this kind of worker.

The introduction you construct from these points shouldn’t span more than a few sentences which, ideally, you should comfortably recite in one good breath. It should also encourage follow-up questions, just like any good advert. It helped my friend and his wife banish their networking fears, and I have seen this approach alleviate much of the stress and worry that goes into business networking.

Simon De Cintra is founder of MyFirstTrainers®, provides coaching and mentoring and is teh author of Unlock Your Business Voice – How to Speak As Well As You Think (£12.99, Rethink Press)