For a lot of people, the word “networking” is an evil word. That feeling of meeting people and selling yourself sounds hideous. Haunted by negative self-talk like “they aren’t going to want to hear about me”, or “it’s all so fake”, or “I’m just not smart enough”, many run for the door as soon as networking is mentioned.
The reality is, that nowadays, there is no job in the world, that doesn’t require you to sell your business. Building relationships is vital to any career, or business because people work with people they know, like and trust.
Networking doesn’t have to be an uncomfortable experience and the whole concept of building relationships is shrouded with myths.
Let’s bust through a few:
Myth 1: Networking is only done at events and meetings
When you say “networking” to someone the immediate picture is standing in a group of people at an event awkwardly trying to work out when to introduce yourself.
Yes, networking events are important, but you can “network” in your own way, space and time as well. You can arrange to meet people for coffee. You can meet people through Linkedin. And in fact you are networking all the time. The people that you work with right now, will possibly be your boss one day, or they’ll go to a great new job and may recommend you.
One thing that helps is understanding what type of communicator you are as you can then play to your strengths. Take this iMA Strategies quiz to discover how you can be better at networking: http://katecocker-ima.com
Myth 2: Networking only counts if you are meeting new people
When I started both my Presenter Coach Business and Kate Cocker Studio (where I sold my artwork and paintings) I realised that actually where the connections start, are with the people you know. Friends would be the first to buy my paintings, and I still get Presenter Coach work through people I play netball with.
Start with who you know, make a list. Then see who they know. And make sure your friends and family, know what it is you actually do so that they can employ you or recommend you.
Myth 3: Networking means talking about myself or the business constantly, and I am not good at that
This is the greatest pressure people put on themselves when they think about networking. But you can take the pressure off right now as here is the secret to being a good networker:
All you have to do is listen.
Think about the people you know that you consider to be good listeners. Do you dislike them? No. Do you respect them? Yes. Do you trust them? Yes.
Listening is key to building relationships and business development. Finding out what are the challenges for their business, gives you the opportunity to help them. You can’t help without listening, being interested and asking questions about the things they are talking about.
Take the light off you, and make sure you shine the light on them.
Sometimes we can build up myths that protect us. Our assumptions protect us from taking risks, feeling uncomfortable and bursting out the comfort zone. Sometimes we don’t have to jump in 2 footed and terrify ourselves, sometimes we can stretch our comfort zone and slowly build confidence that we know what we are doing.
So network to your strengths, start with who you already know, and listen so that you can work out how what you do can help the person you are talking to.
There is one more element to networking that will help you get that new gig, or client. I will reveal all in my next blog.
Have you ever noticed that some people just seem to get you on side really easily, where some just wind you up? Keep reading and take the iMA quiz!
Have you ever wondered why that person you work with just isn’t listening to you and doing as you ask?
Wouldn’t it be amazing if you felt you actually did understand your boss?
And what about the guy who never reads your emails? (For reference I am that guy that rarely makes it to the end of an email).
I am constantly on a mission to unhook snags like these for my clients (and for me!), so I recently trained as an iMA Strategies Affiliate.
iMA Strategies is a simple tool designed by Founder James Knight. iMA suggests that there are 4 types of communicators – denoted by how open and assertive they are. They are all colour coded.
High Blue – Open and Non-Assertive – loves bringing people together and creating teams, is usually a good right-hand man/woman but will feel uncomfortable making decisions or making the first move.
High Yellow – Open and Assertive – likes people, playful, distractible, not worried about detail, quick decision maker, and usually the last one up at a party
High Red – Closed and Assertive – likes detail but only what they need to know, likes getting things done, not so fussed about spending lots of time with lots of people, people can drain their energy.
High Green – Closed and Non-Assertive – likes detail, a lot. Likes processes a lot. Likes getting things done. Does not enjoy spending time with lots of people because they feel drained of energy.
In our most comfortable state, we fall more into one of these categories. If you know what colour you are, you can work out how to communicate better with someone of a different colour.
For example, I am High Blue, which means in my most comfortable state I like being in rooms full of people, but I am not a very good instigator. I also have to find ways to be a better decision maker. High Reds are good for me, but they read me as not focused enough too much waffle. I have to think about how I speak to High Yellows, to be sure that I am a bit more to the point, and for High Greens, I can lean on details but have to be clear with the process.
When we get some idea of which type we are, it’s easier to know what we need, and how to self actualise in order to communicate with other colours. If you are High Green, you can recognise that networking events are your least comfortable place, so either work hard to get good or know to avoid them and find other routes.
When presenting this is useful as you probably want to include ways of communicating that hit all 4 types of people. Bright, vibrant and to the point for the High Yellow and Reds in the audience, a little more facts and detail for the High Blues and Greens. Story wins all colours of course.
Want to know more? This simple test will show you what you are and you’ll get information about how you like to be communicated with, and how you can communicate with the other High Colours. katecocker-ima.com
“I have some silly questions,” I said to the group of people sat in front of me, they are all senior to me and when I think about being here I grin inside that I am worthy to be at this table.
I asked the questions – all of them brought important debate, and got us to think about issues we’d not discussed before now.
There was silly about those questions. Even so, I finish by saying: “And that’s all the silly questions thank you”…
The people around the table replied “nooo they were really good questions”
I left that meeting kicking myself – I deserve to be in that room so why did I let my “pinch myself I can’t believe it” feeling get the better of me?
Why am I apologising for myself?
Self-deprecation is a great tool to win people over, knowing your flaws and exploiting them allows people to feel good about theirs in your presence. There’s a difference between this and apologising for yourself.
In presenting apology appears in the way you introduce something “I hope you don’t mind but I wanted to share this with you” or “can I ask some silly questions?” (*facepalm*)
Or in the way you move on from something: post-punchline you say “anywaaayyy”
Or in the little giggle, you let out when you say something slightly wrong.
All of these are ways we end up undermining yourself. And when pitching or presenting you have to own the room, own your content and fulfil your assumed role as someone in authority.
How to stop undermining yourself
1). Be confident in your content
Confidence in your content is vital. Rehearse it more than you need to. Make the stories your own. Do what it takes to make sure you are comfortable with what you are talking about.
Remember if you don’t know everything, or the answer to a question from the audience, that’s not something that you need to apologise for, nor is it something that undermines you. Your confidence sings through all of that. To confidently say “I don’t know but I will find out for you” hold more integrity than trying to to answer and bumble your way through it finishing on an “anywayyyyy”.
Mr C has a rule that if he is not 100% confident in his content before he goes on air, he scraps it. The audience will never know what they have missed.
2). Practice getting rid of your vocal tick, eg; um, ah or giggle
When I work with many of my clients an um or a giggle is usually a symptom of a lack of clarity and confidence in their content (see point 1). Often the presenter says “well I wasn’t exactly sure what I was saying”.
If it still bothers you, you can use this technique, Click here. Just replace the word erm with whatever it is that you are doing.
3). Let your content breathe – and just don’t apologise
One of the reasons lines like “I hope you don’t mind me doing this…” or “Please indulge me…” are useful is because sometimes it’s hard to know how to go into your content.
For example, if you are about to read a poem, it’s easy to say “I hope you don’t mind but I wanted to read this as I felt it summed up the moment…”
But if you just drop the “I hope you don’t mind…” and presented it like “I found this poem and thought it summed up the moment…” and then read it, it’s much more powerful.
Just delete the apologetic language, and go with it. Same goes if you think your joke hasn’t landed. An ‘anywaaayyy’ draws the wrong kind of attention to it. Either just move on, or make a joke out of the awkward.
4). Say thank you
This is my latest ruse. I use it in email more than when speaking. I often find myself apologising for myself for being a few minutes late, or not replying to an email quickly. Often with some perspective, it’s not as bad as my apology can make it sound. Plus I often say sorry for it, and then I am late again the next time. I either have to be on time or I have to stop apologising for myself.
So I now say “Thank you for bearing with me…” or “Thank you for hanging on I really appreciate it…” My sentiment is the same, but I don’t hear myself saying “sorry” all the time.
Of course, when you mess up, apologise. If I have kept my time-starved mate waiting I am apologetic (and say thank you!). Or if you say something wrong then say sorry for it. But you preserve the power of those “sorrys” by stepping up and confidently presenting in the first place. Save your “sorry” for when you really need it.
To stand on stage and perform feels vulnerable, so when you are on a line up with other speakers, that’s when the comparison voice kicks in.
I’m sat watching the guy who is speaking before me. He is really funny. Like really funny. I’m not that funny. And he has no notes – how is he doing all this without notes?
Then the next lady steps on the stage and she is covering really similar stuff to me, so obviously my brain starts up: “they are going to find out that you aren’t as clever as you make out”. And again “oh she is putting this message together much better than you do”…
And then your brain hits you with this doozy: “Are you sure you’re good enough?”
Brene Brown says that “Comparison is the killer of creativity and joy”.
And as I sat there trying to stop myself from going into a flat spin, I started to deploy the methods I use that remind me of the only thing that can stop you from killing your creativity and joy…
Remember that You are You.
I get all my clients to establish who they are before doing anything else. Understanding what you bring to the table, where your strengths lie, and what you are trying to achieve, eradicates comparison. All that matters is that you are attempting to be the best you can be, in line with your own values. Grasp this, and then suddenly you won’t be worrying about what others do.
Presenter Chris Evans said on his first Virgin Radio show in January “If anyone is any good then there is room for everyone”. He was replying to those who were curious about any competition between him and his old Radio 2 show. He’s right.
I also used to get really worried that I wasn’t as good as other people doing what I do. That was until I started to realise that there wasn’t one or two people that I was in competition with… there are thousands of people doing it, all over the world. All I can do is do the best I can to help the people I want to help.
Of course, competition is useful, It spurs us on and helps us to be better, and competition is fuelled by comparison. So, be clear on who you are, what you want people to remember, and focus on that. You can wave goodbye to comparisonitis.