I attended a networking breakfast this morning. It was the speed dating style where everyone was assigned three separate tables and each person was given two minutes to introduce themselves to the rest of the table.
I have never taken two minutes to give my “speech”. For this fact, most people are ok with me at their table. I professionally coach people on networking and their networking “speeches”. For this fact, most people are nervous or uncomfortable about having me at their table.
This morning at my second table a friend I have known for a few years was at my table. He attended a networking event where I was the speaker and spoke to elevator pitches. He subsequently changed his and used the same premise today. He told me that he still uses it because it really works.
When we went through the roundtable he made mention to the table that this is what I do. Everyone smiled politely but I could see a couple wheels turning. When people recognize that this is what I help my clients do they tend to look only at me when they give their speech unconsciously looking for encouragement or some indication that they are doing it “right”.
Relax guys, I’m just enjoying meeting new people and drinking my orange juice.
Someone came up to me and confided that they didn’t feel that they were very good at these types of things. I get that from a personal perspective. It can be uncomfortable holding court and telling people about yourself, feeling like you are selling yourself.
On a professional side, the coach in me wants to say, “Suck it up cupcake, you are in business, people need to know who you are.”
But here is the thing – stop doing it in a way that seems uncomfortable. You can put together the most polished three sentence, 45 second speech that could ever be conceived; however, if it makes you uncomfortable it is worthless.
Your body language gives it away. I can’t hear your message because I am being overwhelmed with the non-verbal message of “I hate this” or “I am uncomfortable” or worse yet “This really isn’t me”.
If you don’t want to sound like a walking billboard then stop it.
If you don’t want to sound like a tag line then stop it.
If you don’t want to sound like something you are not then stop it.
Start being yourself. Add your humor, your spin on it that comes naturally for you. That tag line or title does not convey who you are and what you do. The way to do this is to be genuine and speak to the value you provide to your clients.
There was a financial planner at one table and his opening line was “I get to play with people’s money.” Well, that got a few chuckles and smiles. It wasn’t exactly accurate but it broke the ice, it put people at ease and he was completely comfortable.
The first rule in networking is to relax. This is not a make or break you thing. This is a way to meet new people. If you were trying to meet people on a personal level you would know immediately if they were presenting themselves as something they are not.
Same holds true. Relax and be yourself. Keep it clean, but be yourself. Yes, I do have to add that little note. Stop dreading your turn and have fun with it.
If you don’t like having the spot light all to yourself, focus it on the others at the table. Our last table was moving along quite quickly and not a lot of interaction. So the second to last person was saying that they help businesses save up to 25-30% and it is not chump change.
The previous participants included someone creating scholarships for high school kids, a small business banker, a rental car representative, a technology firm helping with websites and seo and the financial planner.
After the gentleman said the savings part I piped up and said, “With that money saved your clients can talk to him for to set up the right small business banking, do personal planning with him, hire her to firm up their website and with the remaining amount create a scholarship.”
It broke the ice, allowed everyone to relax and be a bit of a little group. Conversation was increased after that. Note – I did not say one thing about me in that scenario. Networking isn’t about you, it is about the people in front of you.
Let people see who you are, not your representation of a title, and they will be more drawn to you and pay more attention to what you have to say which will translate to more communication, beginning of relationships and mutually beneficial business relationships.
Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW
Certified Professional Resume Writer
Brand Strategist & Career Coach