Even the most introverted of startup founders must pitch their ideas. These tips will help you feel confident as you approach industry big wigs.
Networking: the word so many people hate with a passion and something so few people truly excel at.
When I first started a business, I hated networking. I was terrified of approaching strangers who were more “important” than me to pitch myself and my business. I soon found out that if I didn’t get over these , my business would go nowhere. I had to pitch investors, customers and business partners. It took a lot of trial and error, but I finally figured it out.
Once I got over my fears and improved my social skills, both my life and my business transformed. I was able to meet people who shared my passion and were willing to help a new entrepreneur like myself. Plus, I gained confidence and established awesome friendships.
Take advantage of these four networking tips (ones I learned the hard way!) for approaching VIPs and industry leaders and having a conversation that makes you look and feel confident. ( to tweet these networking tips.)
1. Beat fear by channeling your mission
Don’t you hate that voice in your head that second-guesses everything you do and say? This voice tends to go into overdrive when you’re feeling nervous about a networking conversation. On top of that, because you perceive the situation as threatening, which sends your body goes into “fight or flight” mode. You may feel goosebumps, or like your stomach is doing flips. This is normal — it’s your body trying to protect you.
The first step to beating this anxiety is to expect your feelings of nervousness and recognize that they’re normal.
Simply pause and take a few deep breaths in and out before proceeding into a conversation. You may even want to close your eyes for two seconds as you breathe in and out to calm your nerves. While you’re doing this, think about a larger mission that you have for your life or business. Channel it to distract your negative self-talk and use it to motivate you to approach the person who may have a profound effect on your business.
2. Display genuine interest
The easiest way to spark conversation with someone important is to know what they’re working on or what they’re passionate about.
If you are able to show a in their activities, it’s likely they’ll gladly take some time to chat with you. You can start a conversation by asking them a question about some recent work that they’ve done, and thank them for their work. A simple “thank you” will go a long way to break the ice.
3. Use cues to keep the conversation flowing
Approaching and introducing yourself to the person you want to chat with is half the battle. Once you drop the first line and introduce yourself, you can get into the . The first rule is to let the other person talk more and you do this by asking questions. In response to some of their answers, you can chime in with conversational cues.
Conversational cues are words or topics the other person mentions that you can also use to make a conversation flow easier. For example, let’s suppose that after you thank an author for their work they respond by saying it took them five years to write the book, where most of the time spent working on it was at a local coffee shop.
You now have a number of cues that you can use to continue the conversation. The following phrases can be used as conversational cues:
- five years
- coffee shops
And you can ask one of the following questions:
- Wow, your book took you five years to write? or
- I have also been working on my business for the past five years, isn’t it a grind? What keeps you motivated? or
- Wasn’t it loud at that coffee shop? How’d you stay focused writing your book?
4. Lower anxiety by scripting it out
If you’re not comfortable socializing, it’s totally okay to script out a few go-to things to say when you’re networking. Anxiety sets in when we feel like we have no control over a situation. By using scripts you can better predict how the conversation will go so you can guide it. Here’s an example:
“Hi there, I’m Katrina! I really appreciate your work. Do you have two minutes to spare? I’d love to share my and hear your feedback if you’re interested.”
Sometimes just knowing that you have options is enough to calm your anxiety down. Come up with a few go-tos that you can reuse and practice them with friends before you try it at social events. Practice makes perfect!
Approaching VIPs can be intimidating. By calming your inner voice, displaying genuine interest, and using conversation cues and available scripts, you can increase your odds of a successful conversation.
Katrina Razavi is a communication coach who helps people become socially attractive and live their best lives. Visit CommunicationforNerds.com today and get your with more action items for each of these tips!