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Published on November 19, 2020

How to Network on LinkedIn (6 Dos and Don’ts)

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How to Network on LinkedIn (6 Dos and Don’ts)

You’ve gotten past the fear of rejection and embarrassment of putting yourself out there, and now you’re ready to learn how to network on LinkedIn. You’re ready to level-up your professional network, secure job opportunities, and move your career forward.

There’s just one problem. You’re not sure about the appropriate approach to take once you’ve found a person (or people) you want to connect with. Should you get personal or straight to the point? Should you leverage shared connections in your initial outreach? Is it best to ask for permission before sending links you want connections to click through?

There’s a lot to think about. However, a good place to start is with the goal of networking, which is to cultivate productive relationships for employment or business[1].

LinkedIn-marketing-hacks

    With that in mind, there is no right or wrong way to network on LinkedIn and make valuable connections, but there are best practices[2]. And, many of them are the same tested strategies professional speakers, like me, use to connect with their audiences.

    As you’re learning how to network on LinkedIn, here are some things you should always aim to do, and several things you should always avoid.

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    DO: Read the Room (or Profile)

    Before you begin the process of reaching out to someone on LinkedIn, it’s a good idea to do a little research on them. You don’t need to go much farther than their LinkedIn profile to get valuable intel.

    Take a look at the tone of their page. Is it informal or scholarly? Does it include personal information or is it strictly professional? Is the profile picture serious or lighthearted? Understanding the tone may help you decide what tone you should use in your message to them.

    Social science research reveals that when people encounter others who behave similarly to themselves, they will be considered more likable, and, likability aids connection[3]. Professional speakers will often read the room before they present to assess the audience’s mood and energy level. They do this so they can meet the audience where they are before taking the audience on a journey.

    To be clear, this doesn’t mean you should change yourself to make a connection. However, matching the vibe of a person’s profile, at least initially, may help you jumpstart the relationship building process. But, as you’re learning how to network on LinkedIn, your research (and use of similarity-attraction) shouldn’t stop at assessing tone.

    DO: Find a Shared Connection

    As you read a person’s profile, you should be on the look out for shared connections or common affiliations. Did you attend the same conference? Did you both graduate from the same university? Do you follow similar thought leaders or volunteer for the same group?

    Sometimes a shared connection is a mutual friend or colleague. These mutual affiliations are important because they help build trust, and what’s a relationship without trust? As a professional speaker, I will often do research before I hit the stage to understand as much as possible about my audience so that I can effectively highlight shared connections along the way to building rapport.

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    Highlighting shared connections in your communication will help create a sense of familiarity. Familiarity is important in networking on LinkedIn because it breeds trust.

    DO: Make the Outreach About Them

    Think about the last time you received an email or had a conversation with someone, and the person on the other end couldn’t stop talking about themselves. While the interaction may have left them feeling good, you were likely annoyed or uninterested. That’s because we’re innately wired to connect, not control.

    Harvard neuroscientists have even discovered that talking about ourselves gives us the the same pleasure signals in the brain as food or money[4].

    We evaluate whether a connection is valuable, in part, by determining if it offer two-way engagement and invites reciprocity. It’s why professional speakers, whose job is to connect with their audiences, deliberately spend less time talking about themselves than listening to their audience. It’s also why you should avoid filling up an entire LinkedIn message with talk about who you are and what you do.

    Instead, put the person you hope to network with at the center of your outreach. After all, the point of networking is to build a relationship, not monopolize one.

    As you’re learning how to network on LinkedIn, you can get to know more about your connections by asking them great questions. Questions not only help you gain information and insight, but they help you move conversations forward and transition from online to offline networking.

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    DO: Ask for Permission

    If your networking goal on LinkedIn is to find customers for your product or service, then you’ll want to take the important action of asking for permission before sending links or literature. Asking for permission not only invites engagement, but it also creates an opportunity for buy-in.

    Would it be ok if I send you an article about the three ways x product can help your team increase productivity?

    Getting agreement from the person you are networking with informs you that the person is open, attentive and, likely, in anticipation of the value you have to share. Professional speakers often ask their audiences for permission to share advice or more ahead in a presentation. Doing so creates agreement, shares control, and improves the audience experience.

    If you, however, initiate a networking exchange by sending sales material to someone who didn’t ask for them, you may come across as impersonal and intrusive and complicate your chances of fostering a valuable relationship.

    DON’T: Look for Something With Nothing to Give

    A cornerstone of any good relationship, whether personal or professional, is mutual benefit. The priority as you’re learning how to network on LinkedIn should not be solely focused on what you can gain from a particular connection. You must also consider what you can give.

    How can you help them? How can you add value to their current situation? If you are an emerging leader or young professional, you may feel like you are not far along enough in your career to be of much help to seasoned professionals you hope to connect with. That isn’t true.

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    You have perspective to offer, introductions to suggest, and helpful feedback to pass along. You can also give encouragement through actively engaging on posts and articles your connections write. Be sure that you prioritize being of value as much as you focus on receiving benefits through your networking efforts.

    In fact, the more you focus on serving up value to others, the easier you may find networking altogether.

    DON’T: Be Afraid to Follow up

    If your networking efforts don’t immediately result in dialogue or other exchanges, don’t be afraid to follow up[5]. Sending a single message at a single moment in time may not translate to a lack of interest in connection. It could just be bad timing.

    Before you check in again, though, review your initial outreach to see if you if you followed the suggestions described here. If not, be sure to retool your approach before hitting send. Also, be sure to follow up with your connections if they give you actionable advice.

    Checking back in to let them know that you’ve applied their feedback helps to establish the relationship as beneficial for both parties.

    The Bottom Line

    Learning how to network on LinkedIn takes trial and error, and you’ll eventually find your flow, but, you don’t have to start from scratch. Take into consideration strategies professional speakers use to connect with their audiences as you figure out how to connect with professionals on LinkedIn. Before reaching out to someone you’d like to link with, be sure to read their profile as it contains valuable pieces of information that can help you tailor your approach.

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    If your networking goals include finding customers for your product or service, be sure not to bombard potential connections with communication that feels too self-centered. At the end of the day, remember this: relationships of all kinds, even those developed on LinkedIn, should provide value for everyone involved.

    More on How to Network

    Featured photo credit: inlytics via unsplash.com

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    Candace Doby

    Speaker, author and coach helping young leaders build courage in themselves.

    How To Relax Quickly When You Are Addicted To Work 4 Effective Ways To Collaborate With Your Team 3 Workplace Goals To Set For Professional Development How to Network on LinkedIn (6 Dos and Don’ts)

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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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