HELLO AGAIN, my networking apprentices. I'm not addressing follow up yet but I do promise that will be next. I noticed a theme in the words many of you used in your comments on the last post, "daunting," "intimidating," and "awkward," to name a few. So I want to address that before we move on to the follow up to make sure your extra-super-well equipped to make an excellent impression at events and functions (since your follow ups will yield a less than desirable response if you're not).
I recently attended an event for female entrepreneurs hosted by Marie Forleo (kick ass business coach for female entrepreneurs, works on projects with Tony Robbins and Richard Branson!) called Rich, Happy and Hot LIVE. Imagine networking in a room of 150 female entrepreneurs representing all kinds of products and services. To those of you who mentioned being intimidated at times, there were a few power sluggers at this event. Women who's books I read and websites I idolize like Gabrielle Bernstein, Latham Thomas, Katie Freiling and Danielle Laporte. I was definitely stomping around Donna Karan's Urban Zen center in my extremely-nervous-afraid-to-introduce-myself shoes (size 7 1/2) around those ladies. So let me just say, I feel you.
I walked away feeling more comfortable and knowing that it's not only normal, but totally okay to be nervous. It's important to be tough too though, just push through the nervous, get in there, make those introductions, have that mildly awkward (and sometimes not so awkward, yes!) small talk and I assure you--there is so much opportunity waiting for you on the other side.
A guaranteed way to mitigate nerves and the intimidation in any situation is by ramping up your preparedness. I did some digging around for you. Here's the comment that resonated with me most from last week, "I think your tips about elevator speeches and first impressions are true in these situations, though I think it’s more important to be friendly and memorable than super professional."
I never actually said be super professional, which is why this comment stuck out to me. I want to be 100% clear this time...
I'm a huge believer that you must be yourself, communicate in your way, and never try to shove yourself into a mold that doesn't feel right to you. That a person gets an understanding of your personality through your quick introduction or elevator speech is the most important point of emphasis. Especially women. We are feelers, more so than thinkers. We are blessed with gut feelings and intuition that are usually right, so be genuine, be authentic, be yourself-because people can tell when you're not. Do you ever get that icky feeling when you meet someone? Like, hm, I don't know who they were trying to fool with that BS but I'm not falling for it? Let's strive never to be that person!
Here are some DO's and DON'Ts to answering "What do you do?" (huge thanks to the blogs of Danielle Laporte: White Hot Truth, and Yvonne Bynoe: Soulful Affluence who's tips I've fused into what you're about to read):
1. DON'T: just give your job title. I have to be honest, titles drive me crazy. There are no 2-3 word descriptions that fully describe the depth of what you do. Titles truly allow people to make judgments (not because they're bad people, but that's just how it works), based on those few words. So don't do it (keep reading to learn how to avoid it)!
2. DO: be prepared with an answer you actually feel good about saying. Whether you love what you do, hate it or could care less, be sure to include a quick nugget about something you love and are interested in. People's interests after all, Danielle Laporte explains, are what makes them interesting.
3. DO: Formulate a list of your interests, your dreams, and what you do to earn money. This is how you're going to come up with something you feel good about saying. Make a list of words and phrases to mold into your elevator speech. I spent a lot of time on this exercise so I'll walk you through my example:
Words: health and fitness, writer, coach, consultant, trainer, fithealthyandbeautiful.com, writing a book, want to open a studio, work with really busy women, teach them how to take better care of themselves.
End Product: "What do you do Liz?"
"Well, you can find me at fithealthyandbeautiful.com and I write for several women's online magazines as well. I'll be opening a boutique health and fitness studio in NYC late in 2011 and I'm building a platform for my first book."
And here I've been telling people I'm a personal trainer, or a health and fitness coach, depending on whatever came flying out of my mouth at that moment. See how much better that was?
4. DO NOT: for a second think that people care about the minutiae of what you do (unless of course, they ask). There is nothing worse, than having to feign interest in someone's long-winded, energy sucking description of their job. People care about the end result of your work, not particularly how you get from Point A to Point B. So go ahead and leave those details out.
5. DO:use your own vernacular. Please when you're coming up with your new fabulous answer to "What do you do?" say it however you'd say it to your closest girlfriends or your family. There's no need to put on heirs, and like Leslie said, "be super professional." Real people who do not apologize who they are make the most connections in this life. It's super refreshing on a planet where so many people are trying to shove themselves into molds that aren't made for them.
Work on these tips, grab a notepad, write down your words and formulate your amazing description. I guarantee you will feel less intimidated and nervous, and that pit in your stomach will be slightly smaller when you enter the room, knowing you have this little gem in your back pocket.
Stay tuned for my next post on following up...(I mean it this time!) and please feel free to share your comments and introductions with us!