I certainly consider myself to be a highly social person. Casual social situations such as chatting with strangers at a supermarket or introducing myself to people at social gatherings come naturally to me.
While I don’t struggle with making friends in real life scenarios, social networking contexts can be a whole separate ball game.
To be completely honest, professional networking makes me uncomfortable sometimes and there’s no shame in that! Networking requires a whole different style of communication.
These tips will help anyone struggling with networking-related stress and anxiety.
1. Defeat Public Speaking Fears
Did you know the number one fear in the world is directly related to social networking? It’s not surprising that the fear of public speaking strikes the majority of the population as something that is both frightening and difficult.
One thing is for sure: approaching and combating fears of talking to groups of people is definitely easier said than done.
But just think of the possibilities. If you overcome these fears or communication insecurities, if you can overcome talking in large group settings, then making connections related to social networking would be a breeze.
The following suggestions are representative of lessons I’ve learned firsthand. They’ve helped me overcome the completely rational fears and discomforts associated with public speaking:
- Avoid memorizing each and every word you are trying to say. This can seem forced and may create extra unnecessary pressure on yourself.
- Furthermore, avoid reading what you want to say word for word. Speak from an outline, NOT a script.
- Don’t equate your public speaking skills to your self-worth. Everyone makes mistakes, and we have different strengths and weaknesses. So try not to get hung up on them. Perfection is not realistic; you’ll make some mistakes and that’s okay. Instead of focusing on being perfect, think of creative ways to address any hiccups you may experience while speaking.
- Humor can go a long way!
- Try not to be overly nervous. Attempt to channel nerves into something positive – such as excitement or audience engagement.
2. Overcome the Fear of Rejection
Most of the time, rejection doesn’t feel good. It can be defeating.
So do your best to relax, and don’t take rejection personally. In reality, it’s a valuable learning tool. When viewed in a positive light, you can learn a better approach for the next time!
Rejection will happen so make the best of it; and odds are, you aren’t the only one feeling slightly timid or nervous. Don’t fret if you aren’t making numerous social networking connections right out of the gate. They will happen – so be patient.
3. Avoid Pointless Small Talk
Are you pressuring yourself to memorize current events or keep track of popular sports games in preparation of your next networking get-together? You are NOT approaching the science of small talk in a realistic way if this describes you.
Do not focus too heavily on generalized small talk; instead, shift your focus to actually learning about the people you meet. This will in turn, spark dialogue in a genuine fashion.
These conversations will become increasingly meaningful and you’ll learn more about the people you meet. Remember: focus on being genuine, not general.
4. Social Media is Your Best Friend
We all know this. It’s impossible to ignore social media in the current digitally-driven age. But those connections you make on social media sites like LinkedIn and Facebook can be crucially important to your success.
Maintaining a positive web presence is also important. Paint a picture of yourself on the Web that is true and empowered – don’t sell yourself or your abilities short!
A resource from Washington State University Online points out some very valid reasons for embracing social media:
“Over 2.3 billion active social media users as of January 2016, opportunities to connect online are greater than ever before. By networking directly with potential clients and thought leaders in the same field, people can also keep apprised of networking opportunities and events such as conferences and lectures.”
Diving head-first into social media efforts is as advantageous as it is relevant.
5. Include Social Networking Efforts in Your Daily Schedule
It may seem difficult or even impossible to fit all of your networking goals into a feasible schedule. At times, social networking efforts may be put on the back burner, especially when life creates a whirlwind of busyness.
But just because you are busy, doesn’t mean that you don’t have the time to chip away at overarching networking goals.
Additionally, these key networking tips for busy lifestyles point out WHAT to be deliberate about. These should be scheduled into your networking calendar and at the forefront of your mind:
- Attend industry events: trade shows, conferences, and all other networking events allow you to assess the competition.
- Reconnect with past associates: connections don’t have expiration dates!
- Lend a helping hand: we’re all human and people remember when favors or kind gestures are dished out. A friendly, helping hand goes a long way.
6. Reward Yourself for Your Accomplishments
It truly pays off to reward yourself when you’ve accomplished something great. Far too often, people fail to recognize the incredible things they do.
When you feel a sense of pride, try to acknowledge that. Understanding and recognizing your own levels of success is empowering. It also helps ensure healthy levels of self-confidence.
When you’re doing great, don’t lose sight of your achievements.
7. Enjoy the Process: Networking Should Be Fun!
If you aren’t happy, it typically shows both in your actions and your emotions. Choose to surround yourself with events or social media platforms that speak to you!
The best connections are those that seem natural. The best way to project authenticity to people is to be excited about what you are doing, and ecstatic to talk about it.
It’s important to reiterate that these are just starting points; guidelines from which anyone can gain some insight into fantastic social networking practices. Understand that this just a slice of the overall pie.
And if you have any suggestions or additional tips, please post them in the comments section!