most networking advice sucks.
I went from someone who couldn’t talk, faced such bad social anxiety that I would have trouble committing to any plans, to learn how to be able to be myself, run a business, speak in front of an audience and truly change the trajectory of my life.
The reason why I think networking advice can suck is because it most often comes from people who haven’t struggled with social anxiety. Most haven’t had that little voice inside their head saying “wow you sound really stupid right now” or “I don’t think anyone here likes you” or “they’re starring at my outfit – oh my god I look ridiculous.”
Now with the pandemic restrictions loosening up around the world, it seems like the online calls will lessen and we’ll be in-person in no time! Don’t freak out. I’ve jotted down 6 easy tips to keep you ready, sharp, and excited to see people in-person.
ps; I’ve been your person guinea pig on this one – I can attest these have worked and continue to work for me.
1. Check-in with WHY you’re feeling anxious
Where does the anxiety stem from?
A mentor once asked me a question about why I was afraid to create video content with myself in it. I gave the typical answers like how I wasn’t confident or who was I to make a video – who would even watch little old me?? He then asked why again. Kind of annoyed but I begrudgingly answered that I thought people might think I’m not smart or educated enough about what I’m talking about. He asked why again. And again. And again. And again… The idea was to get down past all the layers [much like an onion – might even make you cry!] to the root of the issue. The root of my issue ended up being that when I was younger, I had been videoed at a dance recital and when my family was watching it, they proceeded to make fun of how ridiculous I looked. This was 20 years ago and had totally scarred me, and I didn’t even know it.
The sooner you figure out the root and the why of your anxiety you’re ahead of it. Not the other way around [for once…].
When you realize the root or trigger of the anxiety, we can now start to strategize ahead of time on how we’re going to tackle it when it flares up.
Action item: figure out the anxiety and keep asking why until you get to the root. Write it all down.
2. No caffeine, no problem
This is a simple one: you’re already in a stimulating situation, you don’t need a stimulant. This will not help you relax.
1. Breathe - I recommend working on breath techniques prior to see what works best for you. Check out Wim Hof here for more guidance.
2. Mantra - come up with a mantra that serves you. Something as simple as “I am enough” is perfect to keep on reminding yourself when that little voice starts to pipe up.
3. Find your people – hello fellow introverts & anxiety-riddled peers
Ever heard the saying strength in numbers?
Find people like you. It’s not hard to spot because, well you know exactly what you would be doing and where you would be.
Make contact and connect with them! This is a far less daunting task than talking to the extremely confident extrovert right off the bat.
Use this as your warm-up. Connect and chat with your peers that have the same feelings towards this situation, and I can guarantee once you spend some time in this “safe space” you’ll feel much more inclined to venture off to speak with more people and get to networking.
Spot two people – one person who you feel comfortable approaching, a fellow introvert. The other person would be the person you’re looking to work your way up to approaching by the end of the event.
4. Body language
I totally get wanting to make yourself feel small and go unnoticed. I urge you to resist.
Eye contact – keep those eyes up! Try to avoid shying away from eye contact. When you do happen to meet someone’s eye, don’t look away. Acknowledge their gaze and carry on.
Posture – be open. We know and feel the pull to hold or cross our arms, to slouch or to keep our head down. It’s hard. I know. Resist curling into that comfortable shell and open your body - totally opposite of what you’re used to. Try the superman/woman pose several times before going out to an event or meeting. Overall learn how to take up space. Quit playing small. You’re bigger and better than that!
Quit fiddling – remember when your parents used to tell us to stop playing with our hair or chewing our nails, etc.? Channel their voice in your head and quit it. My recommendation is to keep someone like a stone or token in your pocket to ground you in that moment. Keep it as a constant reminder that you’re OK and to keep those hands busy.
Action item: Practice! Like anything else, the more you practice the better you get! Practice can truly happen anywhere too. When you’re at the grocery store, make eye contact with the clerk and chat for a minute or two. Even if it is awkward, you get to walk away in a few minutes anyway.
5. Get people talking about their favourite subject: themselves
We all know that moment when the conversation falls and little flat, has no direction and… [🚨🚨🚨 sound the internal alarms] an awkward silence.
Fortunately, people like to talk about themselves. Like, a lot. So much so that it’s the perfect blanket conversation piece to chat most people up.
When you pass the spotlight to someone else there’s a feeling of ease knowing the pressure is off you.
Also, this is a great way to connect. If you’re able to ask some questions to get to know what matters most to them, you’ll come to realize that we’re not all that different from one another and you may just connect someone that you wouldn’t have expected.
Action item: come up with some general questions to default to when you’re feeling uncomfortable. For example:
- What inspired you to get started in business?
- What are the top habits that have helped you become successful in business?
- What are some lessons in business you’ve learned this past year?
6. Be kind to yourself
This is a process. You will not conquer anxiety overnight, but with enough trial and practice it does get easier. If one event doesn’t go your way, just keep working at it. It will get better.
Pro tip: relate anxious thoughts to a kid who keeps interrupting you. Annoying, am I right? You can acknowledge them and simply tell them you're busy with something else right now, and then return to what you are doing. Done.
Whether you’re just starting out or you are years deep into you business, it’s worth practicing and developing these skills to show the world the real, wonderful and worthy YOU to the world.
Quit playing small. You won’t get very far.
YOU can do this!
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