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How do you overcome nervousness of public speaking or attending networking events?

I've heard "practice practice practice" several times. However, I still get anxious when I have an obligation to attend an event. I'd rather avoid them. I know talking to people is important for my brand, do you have any tips to help overcome this faster?

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11

Definitely bring a friend with you (who is good at networking) and let them do most of the talking and have them introduce you. Often times, the other person will respond to both of you (as your frined speaks) and you will feel more comfortable opening up...just make sure to make eye contact and smile. Give a good, firm, friendly handshake. Listen to what your friend says and jump in when you are ready. You'll be a pro in no time.

Another thing to do is find out who the host is and let them know it's your first time at their event. They will make you more comfortable and introduce YOU to others.

Try and attend events with the same host or a regular weekly, monthly event so you can get to know some of the same people first, get really comfortable with them and then move on to the next group/event. It's beneficial to go to the same groups/events so as to build relationsahips and pretty soon you'll start seeing familiar faces and you'll be much more comfortable...best of luck!

9

Kristy, I have been in business for 38 years and have spent most of my time in various networking and event interactions as a primary way of building business. I can tell you that if you feel anxious, it's most likely the result of not having a plan for networking. Practice is very important, as many have already suggested, but a plan gives the whole networking effort meaning!

Most of the time, networking anxiety comes from unrealistic or disconnected expectations about why you are going. Without a clear plan of what you want to accomplish, any outcome is going to feel disappointing.

Here's a way to create a simple plan for networking:

1. What is your primary area of strength? What's your expertise? Getting clear about the value you bring will bolster your confidence.

2. Who's going to be at the event you attend? What industries or occupations are they coming from and is there a specific purpose for the event? ie- real estate or HR.

3. Do you have a comfortable way to approach peple you don't know? If not, think about how to meet people and strike up an informal conversation. The best book I've ever read on this is 'Convince Them in 90 Seconds" by Nicholas Boothman.

4. Know what you are looking for in a potential contact. Don't go expecting to close sales or get immediate business. This is a cardinal mistake of inexperienced networkers. Go with the objective of meeting a few quality people who might become potential referral sources or collaborators.

5. Don't pass out your business card indiscriminately. Offer it to people who ask. If your initial conversation is stimulating, they will ask!

6. If you need support, attend your events with a friend. Tag teaming is a great way to minimize the stress.

Now, once you have answered these questions and created a plan you are comfortable with, practice it! Not all networking events will be winners. Networking is not a sprint, it's a marathon and the people who stay with it are the ones who benefit long term.

7

Mark Lummus' answer is right on. ToastMasters is great, and Meetups are handy for practicing.
Another tip: For networking events, practice your introduction or "elevator pitch." In other words, practice saying what you do and why you're at an event before you go. That way you will know what to say when you meet someone and won't feel confused or tongue-tied.
Final tip: For networking events, ask questions like "Are you finding this Meetup useful?" Lots of people love to talk - let them do all the work and you get all the connections!

7

Hi Kristy:

I can speak to the public speaking side of things. I have handled a number of speaking assignments to groups as large as 3,500 and have been an instructor in public speaking for over 15 years. And so a few tips:

1) Have an outline. You can start out with a manuscript if you want when you're putting together your presentation but for the delivery you should only have an outline that has the main points you want to bring out. You may also have quotes from other source that of course you would want to have in its entirety. And remember most people will only be able to remember 3 maybe 4 main points even if you're talking for an hour so don't try to cram too many points into it. You'll lose focus and also lose your audience.

2) Practice the presentation until you know it cold. I can't emphasize this enough. You have to know and be comfortable with the material so that it becomes a part of you. This is much easier if the material plays into your strengths and expertise. And if you're using presentation materials (e.g. Powerpoint or Keynote) remember that those materials are your OUTLINE and not your presentation. And the slide deck should reflect that. In other words less is truly more. And again you should know this outline so well that you almost don't even need to look at your notes.

3) Naturalness. This is difficult if you're new to the speaking circuit but also the most critical in getting across your personality, integrity and reaching the heart of your audience. And how do you achieve it? You have to get it into your head that you're not really talking to 25 , 50 or 100 people -- you're talking to each INDIVIDUAL. And once you get into that mindset you will find that you're really having multiple one-on-one conversations simultaneously. And so be yourself. Don't try to become another person when you're up in front of a group because the audience will usually see through that immediately.

4) Eye Contact. This is important in connecting with your audience. When you're nervous you may want to look at the back wall or the clock or somewhere above everyone's head. But remember you're having a conversation with each person in the audience so say a few words directly to someone and then a few words to someone else and visually make eye contact with different persons across both sides of the room.

5) Gestures. When you're nervous you may want to hold your hands tightly in front of you or even put them in your pockets. DON'T. You want to gesture freely and naturally as you're talking. This allows you to use descriptive gestures to highlight something you're discussing and also emphatic gestures when you need to emphasize or HIT a point that you want your audience to remember.

So just a few pointers and I hope it helps!

Thank you Chris Hodges, this is so good I cut it and saved it on my desktop.
Thank you Kristy for the question and all of you for your great answers.

7

There are a number of strategies depending on wht your hesitation is. Knowing someone is always good to get you there, but make sure you separate and meet others.

Having a plan can help. Decide you want X number of cards (1, 2, 5, 10 your choice) and then you can leave. If you have a goal, you will often do better.

Preplan and practice your scripts. How will you answer "What do you do?" "Who is your target market?" or other typical questions. This helps give you confidence when you walk in.

Ask if you can get a list of attendees before the meeting so you can look them up. Then you might not feel as out of place.

Go to places where others want to network. Some events are for people who know each other, some are mostly strangers, some are for people elooking for business, some just to get to know others. Find what matches your personality.

Find a strong networker in your area and make friends. Get their advice on you personally.

5

Hi Kristy ~

These are two different questions: talking with people one-on-one, and speaking before a group. For networking events, being yourself and asking the person you're talking to questions works really well: everyone loves to talk about themselves, and if you ask questions about their business, you'll learn all about them. Maybe you can even bring event coupons to share for a special gift, such as executive style session, when they visit your boutique.

Public speaking is typically fraught with nerves for most people, unless and until they join a group and practice. I trained with Lee Glickstein, founder of Speaking Circles International, which takes a very different approach than Toastmasters or other public speaking groups. The focus is on connecting one to one, and speaking directly to one person at a time from the heart ~ so it may be a good "practice" for networking events, too. Here's the site to learn more: http://www.speakingcircles.com

Hope this is useful.

5

Kristy, I know of what you speak. However, I overcame my internal debate by taking a mentor's advice a long time ago, and it stays with me to this day.
No, it isn't the "imagine the audience in their underwear" advice. I don't know who came up with that BS, but it surely couldn't work.
What I have learned is to draw from within your creative self. Put on your best face and pretend you are serving a role for a live production; an actress. Act as though you are confident, assured, well-heeled and above reproach, even though you feel like vomiting.
"All the world's a stage, and the men and women are butt players;" is a portion of poetry from "As You Like it" by Wm. Shakespeare. He got it right then, and you can make it work for you as well.

Hang tough, and get out there.

5

Hi Kristy,

Great question! I have been teaching public speaking for over a decade and I hear this question often. I have had the privilege now of serving over half a million people like you from around the world improve their skills. Here are 3 simple strategies that work:

1. Focus plays a huge part in how you "feel." What you focus on you will feel. If you focus on being nervous, sounding stupid or messing up, that is where you will go. Your brain will take you there. On the flip side, if you focus on your subject (objective, information you are presenting, etc) you will feel better. Also, make sure you focus on the other person and THEIR needs. When you focus on serving the other person through your communication and what they need, then you will feel amazing.

2. Be prepared. If you are giving a presentation that you knew about in advance, practice, practice, practice. Video yourself and watch it back. Do not bee too critical of yourself but notice anything you want to change. That will help you make it even better. If you meet someone on the fly, get curious about THEM. Ask them questions like,"I'd like to hear your story, tell me about yourself." Focus on their needs and getting to know them. Not "What can this person do for me."

3. Be in a good mood! Smile! Have fun! Networking does not have to be this daunting thing. Nor does public speaking. Have fun with it. Laugh at yourself if you flub a bit and people will laugh with you. When you can create laughter in a communication situation there is no better way to build rapport with the audience. To get yourself in a good mood, listen to positive music you love beforehand, training MP3's, or watch some comedy. When you feel good, anything is possible.

I hope this helps! If you want more tips, check out my YouTube Channel, Coach David Brownlee or drop me a line with any questions you have. I am putting together my next 7 week group coaching online for public speaking next month where we take you through the 7 steps to an amazing presentation. Let me know if you and your friends/ colleagues would like to join us. david at davidbrownlee dot com or (858) 367-0289. Love to have you.

Cheers,

Coach David Brownlee

5

I have heard many different idea and suggestions regarding this subject. If you are presenting that is where I believe the practice would be a big benefit. If you are attending a event that is a different situation. The best advice I hear was to be yourself we are all human it is natural to be a bit nervous. Then when meeting people introduce yourself and simply ask people what brings them to this event. By asking questions about people and listening you will get to meet them and learn. I believe the more you try and learn about the other people and how you can help them, the better you will do at these events.

Anonymous User
5

Talk about your clients rather than talk about yourself. People want to hear about how you've made a difference or what solution you offer to a problem.
Share your success stories to engage with and encourage people to want to find out more.
When you speak from the heart people will listen. Over the years I have heard many boring over rehearsed word perfect pitches. Share your business story - why you do what you do - what matters to you.
Networking is all about making connections and building positive and progressive relationships.
Be yourself and have fun while you network because you never know where a conversation can go...

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