Entrepreneurs are perceived as go-getters with great ideas. What if you’re someone with a cool idea who feels a bit awkward socially? You know that networking is essential to grow your new venture, yet you shy away from networking opportunities and have no idea how to work a crowd. Miguel Jardine of the Arizona Commerce Authority, whose job involves networking with businesses, investors and startup entrepreneurs, says, “Usually when I walk into one of those networking situations, I am scared out of my wits.”
How To Feel Comfortable At Mixers
Jardine helps put together the Arizona Innovation Challenge,a bi-annual business plan competition that awards grant funding capital to innovative startups and early stage companies to grow their business in Arizona, says the first step to getting over the anxiety is to accept that everyone knows the event is for networking, and they expect to talk to new people.
Everyone else who’s in attendance is expecting to mix and mingle with new people, and they welcome and expect introductions. Look for natural opportunities to overcome nervousness. Use the line at the wine bar or food buffet to start conversations with people nearby. It’s a natural way to get close and strike up a conversation. Talk about what’s going on around you, the event, presentations and displays.
How To Start Conversations
Introduce yourself and ask others, “What brought you to this event?” Once you start asking others questions about their businesses, you’ll find the ice is broken, and the conversation will easily flow.
Author Keith Ferrazzi of “Who’s Got Your Back” recommends to try not to think of it as networking. He says to focus on helping others and building authentic relationships. It’s just like dating; it’s strategic and systematic but not fake.
Most importantly, maintain eye contact and pay attention. Keep your mind from wandering off and worrying about what to say next by summarizing what the person just said, “So you’re saying ….” and asking follow-up questions.
Practice Your Elevator Pitch
Jardine suggests to use the networking events to practice your elevator pitch.
“You have to find as many opportunities to talk about your business and what you do as you possibly can,” he says. Pay attention to how people react to what you say you do. If they’re eyes wander away and they appear to lose interest, maybe you’ve gotten too technical.
Jardine gives an example of a company that’s in the nano-science industry. After listening to the founder describe his project using technical jargon, Jardine said, “You have a magic paint that absorbs heat?” That’s the elevator pitch that will open conversations.