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5 Steps To Conquer Any Networking Event

5 Steps To Conquer Any Networking Event
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    Let’s say you’re single, lonely, and desperate for a date. That, of course, isn’t actually the case so you’ll need to use your imagination for a moment. Now imagine that you’ve been invited on a group date with the promise that you’ll definitely hit it off with someone special. The organizer isn’t really sure about that but a match seems likely because more than 500 single, lonely, and fairly desperate people will also be on the group date. It sounds like a sure thing, right?

    Wrong.

    When faced with so much opportunity, your first instinct will be to hunker down with a few friendly faces and wait for the end of the evening. Instead of making something amazing happen, you’ll take the safe route. Unfortunately, the safe route often means you go home alone with a story about the one that got away.

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    Unfortunately, most conferences and networking events end just like that. Now what if I told you there was a different way? What if I told you that, continuing the group date example, I could show you how to do background checks on all the attendees and see what they look like in the buff before ever stepping into the same room? You’d be interested, of course!

    While I won’t tell you how to find compromising photos of everyone attending your next networking event, I’ll give you something just as valuable. Here are five steps you can implement and build upon to make the most of your next networking event:

    1. Establish Event-Specific Goals

    Walking into a networking event or conference without a plan is, barring a miracle, a waste of your time. Without a plan you’ll bounce from event to event and float toward the people you already know. But not this time! This time you’re going to establish real goals for what you’ll get from a specific event.

    For example, a small business owner might attend a local meetup of social media types hoping to expand her network with some web-savvy marketers. Instead of saying, “this meetup will give me the chance to make business contacts” she’ll have a specific outcome in mind and won’t waste time on the wrong people.

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    2. Identify & Research Targets

    Now that you’ve established goals for your event experience, it’s time to do some legwork and figure out who will help you reach those goals. Most conferences and meetups have a list of attendees published in a public space, usually online. Smaller events might just have an Eventbrite homepage while big conferences will often maintain a separate list. Many events use hashtags on Twitter so people attending the event can connect beforehand and during the event. Do you see where all this is going?

    The idea is to identify as many event attendees as possible and extract a group of people you most want to connect with. Once you have a list of people attending the event, weed your list based on how certain people could possibly help you reach your goals for the event. If you want to connect with web developers, you’ll not have florists or fishing coaches on your list.

    Once you’ve identified the people you think are worth pursuing at a glance, it’s time to do some research. This might seem tedious and boring, but it’s needed if you want to really get the most of your event. While most of the attendees will stroll into the event with a devil-may-care attitude, you’ll have a short list of targets whose blogs you’ve read, tweets you’ve followed, and major interests you’ve identified. You have a definite advantage!

    3. Use An Event Card

    An event card is exactly like an old school dance card. But instead of scheduling dances with pretty people, you’ll be marking off successful connections with your targets. The simplest version is a plain list of names. That’ll work if you have an amazing memory and ability to place lots of new names with faces. But most of us aren’t so gifted.

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    I prefer to make small cards that include a name, photo, major interests, a thought I had after reading one of my target’s recent blog posts, and a few people also at the event I think they’d enjoy meeting. Putting the time into researching a contact before meeting them has never, ever turned out to be a waste of time for me. It’s an act of faith that has always returned far more than I invested.

    If you want to really do things nicely, add your target contact’s image and information to a special contacts list on your smart phone. That way, when you do get contact information from your new friend, you won’t have to enter anything but their number or email address. If they ask you about why you had their information programmed into your phone already, just tell them you’re a big fan and had planned on meeting them. After all, you are and you did! =)

    4. Establish Your Presence

    There are a few things you should keep in mind as you work to establish your presence as a worthwhile connection to your targets:

    • Whenever you have the chance, show your target that you are somebody worth knowing. If your research revealed that one of your intended contacts has chatted online with another contact, try to be the one to introduce them to each other. (It only takes a moment or two to figure out who your target likes to chat with on a site like Twitter but hasn’t met yet.)
    • As with romantic relationships, dinner is a bigger deal than drinks or a quick chat. If you get the chance to join a prime target for a meal, do it!
    • Try to get contact information for your target that may not be immediately available online. A lot of people have email addresses they give out online or use to sign up for new services. You don’t want that one. You want the one they actually check. Barring a good email address, a friend request via Facebook will usually do just as well. People throw all their personal info there and you’ll have no trouble getting in touch with them!

    When in doubt, friendly conversation and a real effort to listen will at least save you from being labeled as obnoxious!

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    5. Follow Up

    It doesn’t matter how much research you do or how well you woo your targets if you fail to follow up with them after the event! A good rule is to make sure you’ve contacted your targets within 3 days of meeting. Calling is probably too much unless you really hit it off and have already agreed to meet up. Otherwise, a brief email saying hello and reminding your target of the interesting conversation you had, etc. should do the trick.

    Once your target responds, you’re set to continue your relationship and eventually enjoy the fruits of your networking labors! A bit of planning, some basic research, and the will to follow through are the only things standing between you and a robust network of interesting people!

    How could I be such a cold-hearted monster and turn a gathering of wonderful people into a game of numbers and value exchanges? In practice, I don’t always. But just as it’s easier to explain the workings of an automobile engine once it’s been removed from the car, social networking is best explained in unadulterated terms.

    Do you have any questions or a tip of your own to add?

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    Seth Simonds

    Seth writes about lifestyle tips on Lifehack.

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    Last Updated on July 20, 2021

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

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