Networking Fear? Start with GOYA!

No doubt you’ve heard several practices to make networking work for you, but what isn’t addressed is what to do when you the cat has your tongue and your feet are buried in cement. We can make it our goal to attend two or more networking meetings each week, but they aren’t helpful if we can’t get moving and talking.

For years, this was my problem. My pre-networking activities consisted of staring at myself in the mirror, rehearsing my elevator speech and practicing opening lines. Then I’d get in the car and practice more while driving. I would always arrive early, because I needed time for ‘parking lot panic’. However, my pre-networking habits have diminished and I’m more comfortable with networking events (I still sometimes get the jitters, though).

It didn’t take long to realize that if I didn’t get moving and talking, I wasn’t going to reach my goals. I had to make changes and do it fast and it began with GOYA: Get off your Ass!

Here are my GOYA exercises to shake the networking jitters:

Remind yourself: you are not the only one feeling awkward or uncomfortable! Some hide it better than others, but most networking attendees have the jitters. AND, they are looking for ways to start a conversation, too.

In case you haven’t read it already, take a look at another blog I wrote on the benefits of arriving early: The Early Bird Gets the Leads.

If an early arrival isn’t possible, look for people you already know. Walk up to them, and even if they’re engaged in another conversation, it doesn’t hurt to wave and say a quick hello. Most of the time, the friend will introduce you to the new person.

Reach out to those hovering in the corner, near an exit or who are paying a little too much attention to their cell phones. These are classic ‘I’m not sure what to do next’ cues. So many times I have been that person and am building up courage to just say hello. Now I recognize the same behaviors in others and they are the first ones I approach.

Most networking meetings offer food or drinks. If you still have the jitters, stand next to the edibles because everyone comes by to check out the offerings. It’s also a common gathering place for others building up their networking courage—we can look busy and attentive while nibbling on snacks instead of looking lost and awkward standing alone in a large room. Say hello to everyone who approaches. Mention how yummy the dip or the hummus or the punch is. This is the perfect opportunity to add, “What do you do?” In a minute or so, the person will ask about you.

These GOYA exercises have helped me ease the pain of reaching out during events. How do you handle the networking jitters? What networking exercises do you have? Share them in the comments below. (Thanks to Eva from Knews.co for inspiring this topic!)

Happy writing!
Kris the Scribbler

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