Your expertise and enthusiasm make you uniquely qualified to speak about your work so why is networking so hard?
We’re gearing up for “Put Yourself Out There,” a professional development training with NYU alumni at the NYU Wasserman Center for Career Development on Nov. 15 (NYU alumns join us! http://bit.ly/2fslwd4) which has us thinking again about networking and how we can all stand to improve our business communication skills to achieve effective communication in a short amount of time.
For some, walking into a room full of strangers can be an uncomfortable experience in its own right and then add having to initiate conversation to the mix, well, then it becomes downright intimidating! For others, chatting up strangers may be the easy part but it’s challenging to talk about themselves and their work in a concise and compelling way. The good news is that networking, just like public speaking, is a muscle and the more you practice it the stronger you'll become.
Set An Intention
Before networking, or any situation where you have to speak in public, the best thing you can do first is set an intention. Ask yourself, “What do I want to get out of this experience? Practice an elevator pitch? Identify possible business partners? Land a new client?” Being clear about what you want from your audience in advance will help position you to network in a more focused and efficient way.
Another thing that’s helpful to think about is a network as a shared connection (Can you hear me now?) which makes the experience more about a give-and-take and less about trying to impress the other person which can lead to an anxious or one-sided exchange (which is isn’t fun for anyone involved).
Engage in Active Listening
If you think of networking as a shared connection and exchange of energy between people you'll find it promotes active listening. When we actively listen to another person we are listening in order to learn instead of politely waiting for our turn to speak again. Actively listening while networking may help you identify a potential [business opportunity, job lead, client prospect - you get the idea] that you could have missed otherwise. Networking in order to experience a shared connection with another person will also encourage sharing information about yourself in a way that steadily moves you toward achieving your previously set intention.
Try It Out
As you try out these tips you'll find they'll work in any networking situation from an after-work happy hour to an industry-wide convention. So, the next time you find yourself asking (or being asked) “So, what do you do?” you’ll be networking like a pro.