This is an issue I have always struggled with, networking has always been my weakness, yet now seems more important than ever. Whether for business or for pleasure networking has now moved online, and to some, this brings great relief.
Standing in a room full of strangers and trying to engage with people you may or may not have anything in common with is just not for me. With everything moving online though earlier this year, I saw an opportunity to get over this fear, and tackle it head on.
I received an invitation from a friend to join the largest online networking business in the UK, and knowing the business from previous events, and already having a few contacts, I thought now would be a great time. With all of the networking meetings taking place on Zoom, I knew that this was something I could ease in gently with, and at my own pace.
Practice makes perfect, and no longer do I dread or fear my introduction online. I speak with authority, with knowledge, with confidence, and by managing my imposter syndrome, I now speak knowing that I add value to a group.
Here are my Top 5 Tips to prepare you for your first online meeting :-
1) Speak to the people running the meetings, and request a call or zoom with an attendee prior to the meeting so you don’t feel so much like the new kid on the block. When I was in this position, I had a phone call with a few of the ladies who were attending, and this got me used to speaking to people I didn’t know. I also practised my pitch on video on my phone and played it back to see where I could make improvements.
2) Ask questions about the format of the meeting so you know exactly how to prepare and know what to expect. Do they require a short or full business introduction, and how much time on the day do you get to speak, how many people will attend etc. Having these questions answered prior to the meeting will give you less to worry about on the day, and will assist you with your preparation.
3) Practice your intro with a friend or partner, write it down and say it out loud until it flows. Make sure that you don’t go over the time limit you are given, and use short sentences.
4) Don’t rush or panic, you will end up flustered and this will snowball. Take a deep breath and remember that nobody on the call knows what you are preparing to say, and therefore won’t know if you get anything wrong. Be open, tell them it is your first meeting and you are feeling nervous, people don’t bite, and everyone was in this position once.
5) Final tip is to relax and enjoy it, each networking meeting will get easier, and you will find that you tweak your introduction as you go along. Admit you are nervous, don’t be shy, and remember that this is your time to introduce your business and meet new people. Enjoy the meeting, and don’t login too early as it will give the nerves longer to build up. If you are very shy and nervous, speak to the admin / team leader and even ask to speak second or third so you can get it out of the way. Don’t ask to speak first though until you’ve seen what is expected from a more experienced member, going first at this stage will just cause more anxiety.
Networking is part of business life, we can’t get away from it, and being without a network is being without an audience for your business. So many of us rely on recommendations, but without a network, who are you expecting to recommend you? I remember one of the first phrases I ever heard in business was this… ‘your network is your net worth’, and now I get it, and I have this written on a note stuck to my computer screen for every meeting I attend.
The opposite of networking is not working, so relax, have fun with it, and remember that not everybody is your audience. Speaking to everyone is speaking to no-one, reach out to your target audience, know your niche, and have a business plan. Networking is key for any business, and a simple hello could lead to a million things.