Networking HQ BLOG with Larry James

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Uncomfortable, Awkward and Downright (fill in the blank)!

Filed under: Networking — Larry James @ 7:30 am
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What are your feelings about business networking? From my experience, I find that some people dislike networking. One of the many reasons is because they feel awkward or uncomfortable or worse. For many it’s on the bottom of their to-do list.

For people who want their business to prosper it’s a necessary evil. When you first begin networking you may feel a little out of place. That’s normal. Anytime you do something of such great importance for the first time it can take you back a step or two.

UncomfortableNETNetworking is more than shaking hands and passing business cards. It about building your network of support by developing and maintaining good relationships. Unfortunately so many people who are active in networking haven’t a clue of what networking is really about. They wander around an event collecting cards and try to find somebody that will stop long enough to hear their pitch to sell something. Many people completely misunderstand the point of networking events and have little idea why they are attending them apart from hunting for business, or what they should be doing in order to enhance their credibility at the events.


No wonder you feel awkward and uncomfortable!

“Some people feel like a fish out of water in a room filled with strangers. If you are like this, just remember that all those other people are there because they are just like you: they want to meet new people and build new relationships. You might know something that they would value. You might be the answer to another networker’s needs.” ~ Arnie Fertig

How can you make networking less taxing – less awkward – less uncomfortable?

If you don’t know what your doing when you network and you keep on doing it that way… someday soon you will become disillusioned and give it up altogether. And… I don’t blame you. Smart people know that if something isn’t working they usually find better ways to do it. Take an “education” break! Learn more about networking.

HonestNetworkingMost people know how to ask questions. When you show a sincere interest in others, you get their attention. They become even more interested in what you have to say if you NEVER ever try to sell them your product or services the very first time you meet. That is a major networking blunder!

Wanna take the pressure off? Ask lots of questions and find out that they are interested in. Next, LISTEN to their response. Be attentive. Resist the urge to talk about work. Counterproductive? Hardly. Networking will be even more productive if you can build long lasting relationships. People tend to shun you when you are too eager to start the selling before they even know you. That is not the kind of reputation you want to have.

“I find that when I am just shooting the breeze with people, the pressure is taken off on how we can mutually benefit each other. Not thinking about what the other person can provide me has helped form stronger connections. If you get to know someone, without asking anything of them, chances are they will be more likely to help you out when you ask for things later on.” ~ Rebekah Epstein

Great advice, Rebekah. I agree. People love to talk about themselves. I’ve been networking for many years and I have found that one of the best ways to make a friend is to engage them in what they are interested in. You can only do that if you ask the right questions to find out what trips their trigger.

Be friendly. Some people at networking events often stand to the side waiting for someone to come up and talk to them. Be assertive… not aggressive. Talk to strangers. Make them feel welcome. Be your real self. Be curious. I will often introduce myself and ask, “What do you like to do when you are not working or networking?” or “What do you do for fun?” or “Do you have any kids?” or “Are you a sports fan?”

Remember, the more personal you get, the better you understand the person and build on your relationship foundations. This doesn’t always get the conversation going in the direction I would like, but most of the time it does. At least its better then being a wallflower. There are no perks in being a wallflower. If you see someone you don’t know go talk with them. I let them know that I have been networking for many years, let them know that I can be a great resource for them and always ask if there is anything I can help them with.

A big part of networking is discovering what people need. Become their resource partner. Find a need and fill it. Provide others with value in knowing you and having you in their network. Discovering what people need is about working your way to find out what their needs really are. It’s all about giving. Being of help to others feels good.

AfraidNetBecome a friend… without pushing your stuff off on them. Obviously, if they ask what I do, I tell them. But I seldom ever will push the conversation to business unless they do. I want them to know that if they need something they can be comfortable enough to give me a call. This approach usually catches the people that have been “rushed” by others to do business with them by surprise. Often I will have a call on my voice-mail before I return to my office. That’s always a good start. Be a friend and make lots of friends. Never monopolize the conversation.

So if you don’t know what to say, perhaps you may want to think of several things before you are standing if front of someone wondering what to say. When I started networking, I spent some time coming up with several questions that I could ask that would not lead to a conversation about business. I felt more at ease and so did everyone I spoke with. People tend to open up faster when you show genuine interest and curiosity.

When I stumble upon someone that might be able to help me, I might ask for advice or an opinion. This can be a good conversation starter, and a useful way to get helpful information. Most networking talk is forgettable because it’s so generic. Good questions illuminate common interests and often lead you to helpful conversation. People’s responses will make you ask more questions, and you’ll soon find you have had an entire conversation, just by encouraging them to talk.

By asking great questions you have a chance to get to know the person and it shows that you really do care and that’s the best compliment you can give anyone. Great questions help people remember you from all the other people they met.

BONUS Articles: 5 Storytelling Tips to Make Networking Feel Good Again
Networking How-to: Overcome Fear and Just Be Yourself


Copyright © 2013 – Larry James. Adapted from Larry’s latest book, Ten Commitments of Networking: Creative Ways to Maximize Your Personal Connections! Larry James is a Professional Speaker, Author and Networking Coach. He presents networking seminars nationally and “Networking” coaching by telephone or one-on-one. Something NEW about Networking is posted on this Networking BLOG every 4th day! Visit Larry’s Networking Website at: “Networking HQ!”

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