I’ve met a lot of people who are petrified of going to regular networking meetings because they hate the idea of having to do a 60 second pitch about their business each week. And I don’t blame them – several years ago I was in the exact same position, if not even worse.
When I made the decision to overcome my absolute fear of networking, it took a long time to get comfortable being in that environment. When I attended my very first breakfast networking meeting, I was petrified. I remember not sleeping for some nights prior. I was a bundle of nerves – shaking, quivering, sweating, and just not myself. That’s not even counting the very little sleep I’d had, my bloodshot eyes and somewhat frazzled look and feel. I was determined though to get past this intense fear but I knew it wasn’t going to be easy
The first six times I attended this meeting, I stood up to give my 60 second elevator pitch for my business and lasted a maximum 24 seconds. Everything I had rehearsed disappeared and I was completely blank, looking out into a sea of faces. I stumbled over any words I could get out. It was only six months later that other members of this group would inform me that they felt so sorry for me on those first few visits. Some even wanted to give me a hug at the time but knew I may cry or even never return.
These are some key lessons I learned in the first 6 months of being a member of this group:
I realised that no-one knew my story (or business) better than I did. Equally, no-one had any idea what was going to come out of my mouth so I could breathe and relax.
I developed a skeleton script (30 seconds of set phrases and messages I wanted to get across and 30 seconds telling a story). This technique would help tremendously with my nerves and confidence.
Self-deprecation lightened the mood and took the pressure off being so serious. If I was laughing at my own silly mistakes, others were free to join in too. The added benefit of doing that (which I learned over time) is that when people laugh they are engaged and receptive to hear what you have to say next and therefore you can hit them with the important message.
Each member of the group believed in me, were very supportive of what I was doing, and wanted to see me succeed. Feedback was offered in a constructive way that helped boost my self-esteem.
While I am definitely not a morning person, getting up each week to attend a 7am meeting forced me to ‘tackle the fear beast head on’ and didn’t give me the opportunity to back out as not enough time had passed by.
Once I got to grips with the 60 second pitch it wasn't too long until another fear came along. Just as I was settling in to my 60 second flow, I was asked to give a more involved 10 minute presentation of my business. That started a whole new wave of terror and became another challenge I needed to overcome, but that’s a story for another day.
It makes me giggle now to know that at that time I couldn't speak or communicate and now I struggle as a public speaker to fit everything I need to say in a one hour presentation – it’s incredible how we adapt and grow as human beings. Although I’m certainly not perfect yet, as I look back now I’m proud of the progress I’ve made and get really excited about helping other grow as well.
So if you need help overcoming your fear of networking groups, or just need a hand putting together a 60 second presentation, get in touch – I’d love to help.