Firstly, and this may surprise those who know me, I struggle like most people when it comes to entering a networking event and putting on the charm, or pitching to someone and subconsciously saying "pick me, pick me!". Because I've stood up at public meetings, flogged myself selling ad-space and gone into battle with the Daily Mail, having lived to tell the tale, people think I am comfortable in those situations.
Well I am not. But I make myself do it and it does get easier. You certainly need a thick skin in those situations, Marbella over tanned leather is what you need to be honest.
But there are a few things you can do to make that pitch meeting or industry networking event a little easier:
- Do your homework. If you can contact the organiser and get a delegate list you can look at a few people's websites and then have a target list - challenge yourself to seek out two or three people who would be useful to meet and try and exchange details.
- Think ahead about some opening questions. Either about the event you are at, much easier if you are in a gallery or conference. If not then some safe stuff that has recently been in the news - not the weather or where you are off to on holiday thought, you aren't at the hairdressers.
- If you don't like talking about yourself then having questions will mean you can direct the conversation. Lots of people will be relieved that they don't have to think of what to say so it is a win-win.
- If it is a introductory pitch or chat then; homework homework homework. In my field people invariably throw an open question to me asking what I think of their website or ask how I would have got them into a news story. I find I get more respect if I am honest, constructive and polite but always honest.
- Consider buddying up at networking events, this works well if your 'wing man' isn't in the same field as you. But that isn't an excuse to just stand and talk to each other and look closed off to everyone else. You still have to approach people.
But nothing beats good old fashioned practice. Networking and pitching is a skill and as such it needs honing. If you see me at an event be sure to say hi, I promise not to talk about the weather.