Winter is here, it’s cold outside. People are on the wind down for Christmas. It’s the perfect time to hide inside under a blanket and get ready for the annual Love Actually/Bridget Jones film fest.
But you’ve been invited to a festive networking event.
Reluctantly you go.
What is this strange occurrence?
A bunch of business owners drinking cheap prosecco out of plastic glasses whilst simultaneously attempting to balance paper plates piled high with sad, soggy finger food.
You get approached by a veteran networker who has mastered the art of hooking his plate and glass with the same hand, leaving his other (slightly greasy) hand free to shake yours.
He asks you that question which brings fear to your heart.
“So, what do you do?”
You fumble and stutter, saying something vague like “I help people who need help”. He smiles, gestures you to the buffet and goes to find someone more worthwhile to talk to.
You are left feeling crushed. You find a corner, neck a glass of fizz, 3 sausage rolls and a slice of quiche and pray for someone friendly to approach you.
Eventually you leave, berating yourself that you should have stayed at home and you are crap at networking and your business is going to fail because you can’t articulate what you do and everyone else finds it so easy and why did you ever think you could do this you STUPID IDIOTIC WOMAN!
So here’s my Festive Networking Survival Guide.
If you’ve found yourself in this situation either in reality or in your imagination you are not alone. I for one has been there and I know plenty of people who feel the same.
BEFORE YOU GO.
- Practise your introduction in the mirror. Have a sentence that tells people who you help in your business.
- Visualise yourself smiling, standing up straight and making eye contact.
- Remember you don’t need to be the funniest most intelligent person in the room, give yourself a break.
- Set the intention to speak to 1 person and have a conversation that isn’t about work. Networking is about getting to know people so don’t expect to sell there and then.
AT THE EVENT
- Breathe deeply. If you feel anxious you can relax by breathing in for 5 and out for 5.
- Imagine yourself as the host and your job is to make sure everyone feels welcome and is enjoying themselves. This takes the focus off you.
- Ask people what they do and use open questions like “how has your year been?” or “what are you planning for next year?”. These open up the conversation much better than closed questions (yes/no answers).
- Remember, networking is about creating connections and everyone is there for the same reason.
AFTER THE EVENT
- CELEBRATE! You did it! You had a normal conversation with a normal human being!
- Think about what you did well and what you would like to improve. See this as a learning experience instead of criticising yourself.
- Make a note of anything you’ll find useful next time. Maybe someone asked you a question that you’d like to use.