By Melanie Childress
I’m a new business owner and I’m struggling with having social anxiety at networking events. As in, I don’t even want to go to them, but when I do I don’t know what to say or how to be more confident. I mostly just grab a drink or hang out near the food. I don’t know what to ask people other than what they do for a living, so conversations are hard for me. And I feel awkward and sales-y when talking about myself and my business. Is it even possible to not feel so anxious at these things? How do I get past this?
Anxious in Athens
First, congrats on your new business! Taking that leap can be scary, but you did it! Second, networking events can feel like a lot for those of us who get anxious in social situations. But yes, it IS possible to get past this.
Most people go to networking events to sell their thing. You can feel it in the air. Yet, most people don’t really like to be sold to. If these events (or selling in general) feel icky, it’s because you can tell when someone just has selling their thing on their mind - not you personally. Their focus is on themselves, not serving others.
People like to develop relationships, connections, and trust. So if you’re showing up super anxious and trying to sell or get clients, it will be hard to create those relationships. You’re focused on YOU, not them.
The way I like to think about networking events is that I’m just there to make new friends and practice telling people what I do. I’m not trying to find clients, sell coaching, or get anything from anybody. I go to have fun - and I’m not a natural extrovert. Before the event, I think about how I want to feel, play some fun music, and think awesome things about myself. When I get there I introduce myself to people and tell them what I do - not a long elevator speech - just “Hi, I’m Melanie and I’m a life coach.” I let them ask more questions if they have them. If not, I ask them questions like the ones below.
My goal is to stay super curious about people and focus my attention on them. I’ll ask questions like: What brought them to this event? Where are they from? What’s their life like? What do they believe about the world? What goals and dreams do they have? What do they do for fun? Is there anywhere in their life that I can offer a helpful tip (if they’re open to it) that could help them?
So, to manage your anxiety, ask yourself a few questions before the event: What do I need to think about this event to take the pressure off? What do I need to think about to make a new friend today? How can I help people at this event, truly, from a place of caring (not selling)? What do I need to think in order to feel calm? How can I connect with people from a place of love and support?
Write down a few questions to ask others and keep them in your purse or pocket. Memorize them if you need to. Then introduce yourself, make a new friend, and ask them about themselves!
I’m Melanie Childers, MEd, a Master Certified Confidence and Leadership Coach, activist, yogi, writer, educator, and all around badass. I have a Master’s degree in Adult Education.
I show progressive women activists, candidates, and entrepreneurs how to manage their minds so they can build confidence, manage stress, and lead with integrity. I teach them how to handle mind drama when things go sideways.