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Impress The Important Ones At Networking Events By Following This 5-Step Plan

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Impress The Important Ones At Networking Events By Following This 5-Step Plan

Regardless of your age or profession, you cannot escape the importance that networking plays in defining modern-day career success. While older professionals may claim that they have developed their career to date without adopting aggressive networking practices, changes to the way in which employers evaluate and recruit candidates for work mean that these are now increasingly important.

This applies to both virtual and physical networking practices, which are known to deliver a return in terms of human and monetary capital. By targeting relevant networks online and attending physical meetings and events, it is possible to cultivate a strong presence among your peers and earn new business contracts.

A 5-Step Plan for impressing your Peers at Networking Events

With this in mind, here is a five-step plan for successfully targeting relevant networking events and impressing your fellow attendees:

1. Thoroughly Research Relevant Events and Establish Specific Goals

If you are determined to make an impression, it is imperative that you prepare fully and establish event-specific goals prior to attending. This is because not all events are created equal, and while some may not be relevant to your service others may be aimed at a niche demographic of attendees.

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Fortunately, you can use LinkedIn to search for relevant events, either through your own contacts or groups or by perusing a comprehensive list of open communities on the site. From here, you can review the description of the event and research individual members, while also reviewing the topics that tend to be discussed both online and at physical network meetings. If you want to conduct a more comprehensive search, you can also follow any event-specific hashtags on Twitter and connect with some of the listed attendees.

With a clear understanding of an event, its purpose and regular attendees, you can begin to establish event specific goals and identify the people that will help you to achieve them. Prioritise the people that you want to connect with based on their role and level of influence, before preparing topics for discussion that can provide an entry point into a longer-term relationship.

2. Establish your Presence as a Thought Leader

Attempting to network successfully should be a long-term goal, and it may require significant time and effort to achieve this. After you have begun to target networks and specific events, for example, the next step is to connect with members and establish your presence as a knowledgeable and proactive thought leader.

Thought leadership can essentially be described as the entry point into a relationship, and there are a number of ways that you can use this to engage event members and connections. Apart from adopting a proactive role in communicating with fellow members and introducing new members that can add value to the group, you should take the opportunity to publish and share information that is relevant to your industry. Look to share insightful, real-time news items with contacts through Twitter and LinkedIn, for example, using the content to spark debates and social conversations.

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You should also look to use blogging as a viable thought leadership tool, publishing industry-relevant content that can intrigue and challenge members of the group. If you do follow this particular course, focus on developing detailed and informative posts that are consistent, topical and ultimately relevant to the theme of the networking event.

3. Attend the Event well-resourced and Immaculately Presented

After a period of time, you will have established yourself as a revered and well-liked member of your specific networking group. This makes the process of engaging fellow members in person at a networking event far easier, although your hard work can be undone if you are ultimately unprepared or make a poor physical impression.

To begin with, make sure that you are smartly and appropriately dressed for the occasion. Remember that this is a professional event, and you should wear similar attire as you would when attending a job interview or client meeting. Business-casual attire should be fine, although if you are in doubt research previous events for photographic evidence of how other members dressed. By presenting an immaculate appearance, you will underline the fact that you are taking the event seriously and reinforce your value as a network member.

In terms of preparation, you will also need to make sure that you have a set of professional business cards with you when you attend the event. If you leave these at home or simply forget to share them with fellow members, you may undermine the impression that you make at the event. Similarly, be sure to retain the business cards of key influencers who you have yet to connect with online, and strive to initiate further content within 24 hours of the event.

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4. Develop an Emotive, Human Connection

We have already spoken about the importance of creating an entry point into a relationship prior to attending an event, and it is crucial to build on this by developing a human connection when meeting people in person. This can help to create business relationships that transcend an online network, establishing bonds that are genuine and based on multiple emotive factors such as trust, integrity and shared pursuits.

This type of emotive, human connection depends on effective communication skills, and more specifically the ability to ask insightful questions and listen intently to the answers. While the primary goal of any networking event may be to build a more successful career, it is crucial that you strive to develop mutually beneficial relationships that can stand the test of time. Strive to understand the underlying qualities of fellow members and their unique motivation to succeed, absorbing their responses to learn more and get a clearer understanding of them as individuals.

According to Tony Robbins, the quality and insightfulness of your questioning correlates to the quality of your life, which in turn reinforces your value as an individual. Above all else, the process of engaging individuals in a two-way conversation and learning from their responses lays the foundation for a distinctly human relationship.

5. Follow up after the Event and maintain a Tenacious approach to Communication

While you may adopt a focused approach to identifying and attending viable events, others are far more prolific on the networking scene. So even if you are successful in engaging potential contacts and making a positive impression, this will mean little if you fail to follow-up with regular and proactive communication.

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If you are not to become just another face in the crowd, it is crucial that you are tenacious in your approach and connect further with the attendees who you met at the event. Aside from continuing your role as an active member of the group’s online interaction through LinkedIn and Twitter, you should also follow-up by sending emails to those who you connected with thanking them for their time and insight. Once they respond, you can continue to communicate and create a two-way dialogue in-between networking events.

On a note of caution, be sure to maintain some boundaries when communicating with fellow members. Use professional means of communication only, while also targeting individuals with whom you developed a significant rapport. This ensures that every interaction is natural and capable of being sustained over time.

Featured photo credit: Pixabay – Life of Pixs via pixabay.com

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Last Updated on July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

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How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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