I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: networking used to scare me!
In fact, I created a whole video based on my story. (Watch it here!)
When I look back on my journey, I remember how insecure and afraid I felt. I remember how my inner voice would scream at me, trying to convince me to turn around rather than go in and meet new people. Sometimes I gave in, and didn’t even make it through the doors.
I can’t tell you how many women told me they’ve experienced the same thing!
It’s been quite a journey, from my early days of networking to being CEO of a networking company. I still have a timid part inside of me — a part who feels safer staying at home and cuddling up, rather than going out to events. But now, I am filled with tips and tricks and tools to overcome resistance, and make the most of networking experiences. I know how to feel the fear of putting myself out there, and be courageous despite my resistance.
Here are some tips for how to make the best of networking:
Your most powerful and irresistible marketing tool is YOU — but only when you are in your honesty and integrity. People will never respond to you if you’re trying to fake a persona, fake enthusiasm, or be who you think they want you to be. If you spit out a generic script, people’s eyes will glaze over (trust me — I’ve seen this happen a thousand times!). Instead, try really letting your true nature shine through. If you’ve got a great sense of humor, don’t be afraid to show it! If you’re the owner of 13 rescue cats and you light up every time you talk about them, don’t hesitate to weave that into conversation! Rather than being a distraction, it’s actually refreshing when someone brings levity, lightness, and realness into a business exchange that could otherwise feel transactional. And let’s be real: if your personality doesn’t mesh well with someone else’s, you’re not going to want to do business with them. It doesn’t matter how great they are at their job — you can always find someone else to work with who will not only do a good job, but will also appreciate, validate, and value you in the ways you desire.
Being yourself requires one very important thing: knowing yourself. Knowing your superpowers, and also your weaknesses. Knowing the areas where you shine, and the areas where you most need support. Spend some time with your journal, writing about yourself. If you have a hard time getting perspective, ask a few of your closest friends, or whoever knows you best: “What am I great at? What am I not so great at?” Once you’ve collected this information, you can design your brand in a way that is unapologetically YOU, instead of turning into a carbon copy of other business owners or entrepreneurs you admire. And once you’ve gotten clear about who you are, and given your business permission to be a true expression of yourself, bring that spirit to the networking events you attend. You’ll be amazed at how much easier it is to attract the right people and deepen your connections.
This is an especially powerful tool for anyone who feels a little less socially comfortable, or more introverted and overwhelmed when in big groups. Rather than feeling like you have to engage with everyone in the room, how about making it your goal to approach just one new person and ask them a question? You can even plan your questions beforehand! Bonus: ask a question you’re really interested in hearing the answer to! Don’t under any circumstance simply ask the generic question you think is expected of you. If you want to feel like you really enjoyed yourself at a networking event, rather than just showed up and “went through the motions” in an obligatory way, it’s YOUR job to steer the ship. If you’re a musician, how about asking someone if they plan an instrument, or what their favorite type of music is? If you’re a caterer, how about asking someone what their comfort food is? Let the conversation excite and delight you!
There is nothing like reinforcing a pattern to help make it stick. And it’s likely that, not only have you not given yourself any positive reinforcement for networking, but you’ve also attached some negative stories or beliefs! I’ve heard so many women bemoan feeling out of place and uncomfortable, and frustrated when events don’t yield the results, or clients, or connections that they hoped for. And trust me: I’ve attended plenty of events that I didn’t resonate with. And still, I believe that every one of these experiences has value. Why? Because every time, I practiced putting myself out there. I practiced doing something hard, and showing myself that I could do it. I practiced approaching a stranger, and spreading a little kindness and joy through our interaction. I practiced my sales pitch, and my listening skills, and my ability to be both empathetic and a straight-shooter.
So let networking be a challenge. Acknowledge that it will be hard, show yourself how courageous you are, and reward yourself! Take yourself out for a favorite coffee or pastry, get your nails done, or buy yourself a piece of jewelry you’ve been eyeing (all at your local woman-owned coffee shops, salons, and boutiques, of course!). This will help your brain and body attach happy feelings to the experience of networking, and make it feel easier and more pleasurable the next time around.
It’s a big wide world of networking out there, and with these tips and tricks, you’ll be better equipped to dive in and make some deep and fulfilling connections with amazing women. If there’s anything I’ve learned during my time as CEO of Women With Moxie, it’s that being willing to show up and put yourself out there, despite the fear and resistance, yields the most incredible business relationships.
Dream big, ladies, and your network will help you get there!
Dill Ward, CEO, Women with Moxie
Dill has activated and inspired thousands of women through the Women with Moxie network, by providing innovative in-person & online networking events, personal & professional development, and leadership opportunities intended to empower, connect and, care for women on their path to success!
She is a best-selling author, sought-after consultant, speaker, and event host known for her optimism, enthusiasm, and effectivity.
As a trained and certified master negotiation expert and networking maven, Dill has helped hundreds of families achieve their real estate goals and closed more than $100 million dollars in sales during a time she was starting her life over in a new city.