No Fear Networking: 9 Steps from Fearful to Fearless
You walk into a room full of people. No one makes eye contact, but they all seem to be staring at you. Self-conscious, you realize you missed the “business professional” memo. Oh good, a corner to stand in… maybe I’ll just stay here for a while. A woman walks up to you smiling, shakes your hand and introduces herself. Okay, maybe I CAN network. But then you realize... no words are coming out of your mouth. What’s my name? What do I do? Why am I here? In a panic, you run out of the room, slamming the door behind you.
Now, while networking can seem intimidating at first, it really isn’t that bad. In fact, it can be a lot of fun, and if you prepare with the right steps, you’re biggest networking fears can melt away.
1. Complete the Sentence: I’m going to this networking event because _________.
Knowing why you are networking is just as important as actually networking. Are you going with the intention of meeting someone specific? Are you wanting to gain clients? Be asked to speak at an event? When you identify your goal in networking, you can be intentional about how you approach the event and how you introduce yourself to others. For example, when I want to land more speaking gigs I make sure to say, “Hi I’m Jenny Maddern, I’m a personal brand consultant and speaker.” This way, I open doors for people to ask about my speaking. No one is going to read your mind and hand you the job or connection you’re looking for.
2. Brainstorm your List
Now that you know why you’re networking, you need to know who to network with. While the worst thing you can do at a networking event is not network, the second worst scenario is when you walk out with a bunch of business cards that don’t mean anything to you. Identify which people to network with specifically (I want to network with Susan Smith) or generally (I want to network with 3 small business owners).
3. Identify your Fears
One of my good friends used to have a hard time at networking events because she was shy, and she came across to others as disinterested. When we talked about her fears, she was able to make a conscious effort to overcome them and now she’s a rockstar when it comes to networking. You can only go from fearful to fearless after identifying what it is you’re afraid of in the first place!
4. Mild Stalking (or if that sounds too creepy “Do your homework!”)
Find out who is going to be at the event either through Facebook or by contacting the event coordinator. Do your research on what companies people work for and what their roles are. This step can expand off of your brainstorm list. LinkedIn is your best friend! You can easily see if you already have connections to people you plan to network with.
5. Avoid Sending Red Flags!
You can make a fantastic connection with someone, but you can send serious red flags if they ask for your contact information and you don’t have a business card (paper or digital) to give them. Come prepared to show others that you are serious about what you are doing even if you are still a student or just beginning your business.
So you’ve identified your fears, you know who you want to talk to and why, now what? Maybe you’re afraid of mispronouncing others’ names or others not being interested in what you do. The best way to overcome these kinds of fears is to practice. Find a friend or family member who will pretend network with you. Practice makes perfect, or at least more comfortable!
And remember to practice speaking with your own personality. For example, I don’t introduce myself as Jennifer because I go by Jenny and I feel it better expresses my personality. Networking may seem very formal at first, but it’s really all about communicating who you are and getting to know others and what they are about.
7. Remove the Pressure
By practicing introducing yourself you’re already halfway there to making a great connection. Next is to actually make conversation. But what if I don’t have anything to talk about?
Here’s a quick acronym of topics to FORM conversation:
F - From: ask where they live, if they grew up there, where they went to school
O - Occupation: ask where they work, what their role is, how they got there
R - Reason: This is where you can start connecting the conversation to your goal. Ask why they’re at the event and share why you’re there
M - Motivation: Share why you’re speaking to them, what you’ve heard about them or their company and why you are interested
8. Don’t Apologize
One quick point on wardrobe choices: If you ever leave the house with the need to apologize - fix it! “I’m sorry I just came from the gym!” “I didn’t know this was a formal event!” “My makeup sweat off in the car!” Use your wardrobe in your favor, don’t let it be your detriment. A compliment on your earrings can launch a conversation, but opening with an apology about your appearance can be distracting and come across as unprofessional. If you’re worried about something going wrong, keep a little makeup kit in the car or in your purse.
9. Failure is not Fatal
Last but not least, if you mispronounce a name or stumble over a few words, the networking event isn’t a bust. One awkward conversation is not the end of it all. Take a minute to regroup before approaching the next person and then walk over with confidence. Every introduction can be a fresh start. Remember, networking is just getting to know people - but with a purpose.
Whether you own your own business, you’re responsible for gaining new clients, or you’re fresh out of school and looking for a job, networking is the key to success. And with these 9 tips you’ll be a fearless networker in no time.
We’ve all been there.
You got a promotion at work. You finished that project you poured your heart into. You received the degree you’ve been pursuing for years. You’re rocking a killer new dress. You’re really shining.
But then, somebody tries to dull your shine.
“You’re such a workaholic.” “I would NOT have been brave enough to wear that color.” “At this point, I just think grad school is a waste of time and money.” “Are you sure that dress is appropriate for the office?”
And perhaps worst of all, “Do you think you’re too good for us?”
Whether it’s a subtle jab, a nit-picky comment, or an outright rude remark, other people’s negativity can really wreck havoc. And what frustrates me the most is that these flying criticisms are often hurled at us by other women.
This week, I had the opportunity to meet with so many wonderful, shining women, who are successful in their professional and personal lives. I mean, these women are really glowing and they have so much to be proud of. I’ve noticed, however, a common thread weaved in their stories: they are getting flack from other women because of their success.
It’s shocking, right? Criticizing others for their success doesn’t make sense. But these negative remarks aren’t coming from nowhere - they reveal a deeper issue. Often, when we don’t feel comfortable around shiny women, its because we feel dull in comparison to them.
But the truth is, shiny things are reflective, and they amplify light.
Take, for example, a chandelier. Comparing two light bulbs, one may emit a stronger light than another. However, turning off the brighter bulb will not make the dimmer one shine more. Instead, the whole room dims. Only with the bulbs shining together does the light fill the room and reflect off the glass and mirrors of the chandelier creating a beautiful atmosphere.
Let’s break this down, how can you polish up your shine?
So, here’s a little encouragement to get you through your Hump Day: you are shiny no matter what others say. And remember, my shine doesn’t dull yours. We are shinier together.
"You are what you wear, print, and air. Better Make your image intentional."
- Jenny Maddern
When I first meet with a client we go through a branding diagnostic. I find out how they REALLY want to be seen. The process can be eye-opening, inspiring, and a little daunting. Questions like "What would you hate for someone to say about you?" or " How do your employees answer the phone?" ...I'll give you second...thought of your answer? This is just a small peek into the world of branding. Most people think it's just about the color of your logo, and although that is important, branding intentionally is so much deeper than that.
Here's the kicker. Your branding evolves. Yup. Has your business grown? Have you gone from being the recent college grad to the "take me seriously" CEO? Have you stopped working out of your garage and now rent a fancy office? Things change. Branding adjusts. Hopefully, you are being really intentional and authentic with your image. Intentional images can grow. If your image was wrong from the start, a little time off before rebranding is recommended.
Do me a favor. Go take a look at 5 of your contacts ( 5 people you know in REAL life) on LinkedIn. Just look at their profile pic. Is that the person you know? Is your super bubbly and easy-going copywriter friend look like a shark in a suit? Does your tough as nails lawyer buddy look like a beach bum? You'll be surprised to see how often images are not intentional.Your profile pic just scratches the surface of you and your brand, but it's a good start. Remember, you are what you wear, print, and air. Better make your image intentional.
We had a good run. You were there for me when I was just starting out as a homegrown business, but I think it’s time we part ways for good. Your outdated typeface and clipart just aren’t enough anymore. Thanks for getting me started, but I’m looking for something more serious. I need a brand that really gets me. I need to be intentional about my image and you are not it. I wish I could say it’s not you, it’s me. But it’s mostly you.
Your Rebranding Business
Okay, maybe your rebranding doesn’t have to be as dramatic as a break-up. But, when your brand is out-of-date or simply not representative of your business anymore, it’s time to give some serious attention to how you are marketing yourself.
When it’s time to move on…
Even if your brand is professionally designed or it’s your “trademark” image from the beginning days of your business, it might be worth your time (and money!) to consider rebranding.
Has your business’s focus shifted? If you are changing your products or services in a significant way, it’s probably time to rebrand. Has your audience changed? If you are targeting new clients or are growing in your demographic reach, it’s probably time to rebrand. If your business is growing from the kitchen table to a store-front with a ten person staff, it’s probably time to… you guessed it, rebrand.
So, you recognize you need a new brand, but how do you find The One?
Begin with researching. Whether you are going to completely rebrand by yourself or your going to hire someone to help, it’s good to gain a general idea of what your rebranding process will look like and what type of brand you want.
Research what your competitors brands look like and techniques they are using. Identify what they do well and where their brand just falls flat. How are you going to differentiate yourself?
Next, develop a brand book. Although creating a brand book can be time-consuming, it is time well spent. It breaks down what your business is about, your mission, values, and goals, and it creates a template for all your marketing materials. Your clients might never cognitively recognize that the italicized “e” in your logo represents your commitment to forward thinking, but verbalizing such decisions in your brand book makes your image intentional.
Once you have a brand that is really you, it’s time to “make things official.”
Depending on the size and scope of your rebranding, decide whether to relaunch in chunks or with a big bang. If you are keeping most of the same elements with small shifts consider releasing your new brand in chunks. Bigger changes allow for a bigger reveal. Countdown to your relaunch and make sure to notify all of your clients and business associates of your rebranding.
And now a little announcement of our own...
Snappy Casual Consulting....is you guessed it, rebranding!
We have grown in exciting ways. We are still the same authentic branding consulting you trust, but now we’re not just for personal branding. We have evolved to include business branding consulting. Logos, Websites, and Marketing Material, all rolled up into one!
We are taking a note from our own book on creating an intentional image, and we look forward to sharing with you our new brand as we move forward. Don’t worry, our rebranding wasn’t a bad break-up, we’re just moving on to bigger and better things. And we hope you too find “the one” as you explore rebranding.