I’m an introvert. I can’t help the fact that when people are energized and slaying the networking scene, the only thing on my mind is how to crawl into a hole and curl up in bed with a good book.
I hear this all the time: “Associate with people!” “Get their phone numbers!” “He’s walking out of the door, don’t let him leave!” “Touch the hem of her garment, she’ll turn towards you!”
Okay, the last statement is a little far-fetched. But you get my point. Everyday, you are bombarded with requests from loved ones to stretch, step outside your comfort zone, and make new connections.
Now here’s the thing: you are smart and talented. There’s no doubt that you’d rock a room full of dignitaries if handed the microphone.
However, you’re pretty awkward during “first time” meetings and often cringe at memories of your performance once the events are over. Why?
Here’s what you probably do
You’re pumped with excitement about dazzling your audience. So you come up with scripts and gimmicks to demonstrate your intelligence.
But this is what happens
At the end of the day, you feel drained…and you even question your worth. You feel like a yucky salesperson that has droned off a list of accomplishments. Yes, you impressed them, but there was no ‘real’ connection between you and the people you talked to. Heck, you can’t even remember their names much less what you talked about!
So how to you go about creating an amazing first impression that makes you feel good even if you don’t have much to say?
And how do you develop a deep connection with someone you hardly know?
I will share five tips that have helped me feel good about myself even when I don’t plan to follow-up with a networking prospect.
1) Be VERY self-aware
Self-awareness is one of the greatest gifts you can ever give to yourself as a trailblazer. Not only do you want to make sure that you’re checking your intentions at the door, you need a high degree of self-awareness in order to manage the responses from others.
Being fully aware means you know your strengths and weaknesses, you recognize your blind spots, and you make conscious efforts to amplify your strengths, working them to your advantage.
You need to know what makes you feel warm and fuzzy. You have to know what makes your stomach churn and coil. You must know what makes your knees buckle and give out.
When you’re aware of your body, mind, and feelings, you become powerful and more in control, and you begin to shape the outcome of your meetings.
2) Develop genuine interest in the other person
Yes, your elevator pitch is necessary. But you must be a huge fan of your audience. Listen to them with wide eyes and wide hearts.
One mistake most college graduates make about networking is believing that networking is a “place” to exchange emails. That couldn’t be further from the truth.
A few months ago, I learned a technique called the child-like wonder. What this means is that you bring out your inner child and develop such a deep interest in others in ways that make them feel priceless and special.
Get out of your head, you smart person! You don’t have to do anything. You don’t even have to come up with clever words. Serenade your audience with your presence and deep sense of curiosity. People are dying to talk about themselves and you need to keep the loop open.
3) Love & Accept Yourself
“I’m not pretty. I’m too fat.”
“I’m not good enough.”
“I have an accent. People won’t take me seriously.”
These are some of the thoughts that plague us when we attend meetings and networking events.
We are social beings and we have the ability to make others feel a certain way about us. But we have to exude confidence and love ourselves for all we’re worth before we expect others to do the same. You’re not on earth to spend each moment wishing and longing for what you’re not. Accept yourself.
So how do you accept yourself?
Get naked. Be willing to access yourself and come to terms with your strengths and weaknesses. Embrace your quirks and your laughter. Your voice is the loudest when you’re aware of its power.
4) Enjoy the Process & Suspend Judgment
I’m an interesting being. It sometimes takes me several seconds to “get” a joke or respond to social conversations in a Ping-Pong style.
Why? I process the message, the messenger, and my surroundings simultaneously. Now it is a little challenging for me to be on my toes with one-two responses because others might think I have nothing to add to the conversation. But that’s okay! I’ll teach you how to slow the fast talkers down in a bit.
One, make friends with silence. It is not a bad idea to be tongue-tied for a couple of seconds. You are not on an episode of Two and a half Men, where you’re loaded with witty and audacious comebacks.
Two, use tip number two. Be genuinely interested in the conversation (even if you are totally lost) and ask, “You mentioned something about fowl engineering. That’s really interesting! I’d love to know more!”
Simple. Works like a charm. Now you get to know more about fowl engineering than you’ll ever know in your lifetime.
5) Be full of Gratitude
Okay, networker, this tip earned its place on this list for a good reason.
Be happy with the present. Be grateful for your current situation and extend that gratitude to others. Instead of bemoaning your lack of social skills or networking skills, be very clear about who you are and how you blessed you are to be in the presence of others.
Your gift is meant to enhance the life of others, not make you shine. It is when others shine that the light reflects back to you.
Guess what? The best people I’ve met (and still keep in touch with) are those who made me feel like I am the only person in the world. I need you to make me––and others, feel the same way.
Now go out there and shine with these tips. Not only will people be attracted to you, you’ll feel darn good about yourself as well!