You know, sometimes all you need is 20 seconds of insane courage. Just literally 20 seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it.
Life is meant to be an adventure.
If your life is anything less than interesting and inspiring to other people, you’re doing something wrong. The range of possible thrills and spills at your disposal is limited only by your imagination and the choices you make. You are not too old. You are not too young. You don’t need to wait until you get a promotion, Get that big deal, have a funny success story. You don’t need more savings. You don’t need to wait until you’re finished university. You don’t need to wait for a better time.
Right now is the only moment you ever have. You can apply this to so many aspects of your life.
Don’t you hate when you’ve showed up at a networking event late or on your own and you’re the only person who isn’t part of the conversation? Every time you try to say something you seem to get interrupted or ignored; and the more you try to take part, the more awkward things get. So you stare off into space, pretend to watch something or pull out your mobile phone and act like you just got a text message.
Nobody enjoys being a networking wallflower. No matter how shy or introverted you claim to be, beyond our fragile, wounded egos, we all so badly want to be a part of the conversation, to be paid attention, to have as much fun as everyone else. Sitting on the side lines is just boring and uncomfortable.
Sometimes all you need is 20 seconds of insane courage.
You reduce your nerves by mastering your start. This is essential because people can get so nervous before a communication that they:
- Don’t make a good job of it. For example, their presentations become a robotic read-through of boring slides, with zero personality and charm;
- Or don’t even do it at all. For example, when people say “I’m just too busy to go to that networking event”, but really mean “I’m too nervous, so I’ve de-prioritised it”
Both are understandable. You can often reduce or even eliminate your nerves when you know how to start. After all, if you’re clear what your first three sentences are and, by clear, I mean you know them word-for-word – you know you’ll start well. So you do. And then things tend to go well through the rest of it.
Networking? You only need to know (1) who you’ll approach and (2) what you’ll say when you do:
- If you see someone you know and like, go up to them and say “hello”!
- If you don’t know/like anyone, go to someone standing on their own and say “mind if I join you?”
You’ll choose your own opening lines of course. But do choose them. Don’t hope it will turn out well when it matters, because it probably won’t. Or it won’t be as good as it could have been. Or you won’t even do it.
The key to making the transition from networking wallflower to networking Ace is to develop strong social skills, a great opening 20 seconds and to go in with the right mind set. The art of talking to strangers is a learnable skill. Through practice, you can go from frustrated networker to choosing your own adventure, by taking massive action to meet new people. It is the core skill of moving from the social side lines to centre stage. If you go out to social gatherings, but are uncomfortable anywhere but in your tiny little bubble of friends, those fake text message moments are virtually guaranteed.
When you go networking, make it your goal to amuse yourself by exchanging energy with people. This is the state of mind from which your entire social experience will flow. Instead of hanging out, treat networking as an intense form of play. Striving for acceptance is torture. It turns you into an energy vampire and only further annoys people who already weren’t that interested in you. Instead of seeking others’ approval, become the CEO of your own networking environment. Invest your attention into only those people, places, and things that amplify your energy and show you a good time.
Don’t ask yourself what the world needs; ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.
Identify a communication you’re nervous about. Script, edit and practise how you’ll start. After that, it only takes 20 seconds of bravery and some planning.