So many VA’s have said to me: I am absolutely terrified about walking into a room full of strangers.

I say, “That’s ok, I still get nervous.”  It is perfectly acceptable and normal to get nervous when we go networking.

However, they then go to say: “I am not very good at networking, I find that my hands are shaking or my voice goes all jittery; my legs shake, I just don’t have the confidence to go up to anyone when I arrive to speak with them as I just don’t know what to say.”

The lack of confidence, for a lot of people, starts before they have even got to the networking meeting. In fact, quite a few have done a really good job of talking themselves out of going. So they have not even turned up.

So, it’s no wonder networking isn’t working for them and they are not getting a return on their investment.  Networking is part of your long game and yes occasionally you might get a lead from a new event that turns into an awesome client – but the reality is – you have to work at networking.

Carmen (previous owner of VACT) recalls having a really great conversation with a lady called Sarah McCloughry, who runs an organisation called Anrah, and they were having a quiet laugh.  Carmen was saying at the first VA conference her lapel microphone was not working so she  asked to use a hand held mic. There were 120 people sat in the audience and the adrenalin was pumping round her body like mad.  She actually felt a little bit emotional because she was overwhelmed that people had actually turned up.  As a result her voice and hands were shaking and she thought – My goodness everyone is going to think I’m really nervous but actually it was the adrenaline.  Sarah said, which I thought was quite a poignant remark, “but people mistake excitement for nerves or lack of confidence.”

So now think about some of the situations you have experienced where actually you were really excited but you may have been a bit shaky. Maybe your throat went a bit dry could this have been excitement instead?

So be very careful, because it could be that you are really excited about going to a networking event. You are excited about getting to know people, excited about standing up and saying something about your business.

“Confidence around networking starts off with your mindset.”

“Whether you think you can, or whether you think you can’t, then you are right.”  Henry Ford

So what are you saying to yourself? Are you telling yourself, and other people, that you are terrible at networking, that you never know what to say, that you are not confident at networking, that you find it scary?

If this is the first ever networking meeting you are going to or the first time at a particular group you are going to – where is the evidence that you are not good at networking?

Please don’t because I bet that you have been networking for a long time, more than you realise; you have been doing it on a personal basis, maybe at a party or a wedding reception when you are speaking to people you don’t know.  But that feels ok, as it’s a personal event rather than in a work context.  Perhaps you know some people there or you might sit at a table or be sat next to someone that you don’t know but you are friendly, just getting to know them. You ask them a bit about themselves, what they do for a living, you might notice they have children there, so you ask them about their children or you ask them about their business or their career. That’s all networking – is building relationships with others, so that we can get to “know, like and trust them” and they can do vice versa.

We all do it. We all network in a personal sense but something turns a switch in a lot of us that says it’s scary when you do it for business and we experience a loss of confidence.  Suddenly women find it intimidating to walk into a room where there are men. Well actually, not every man is scary and I always ask where is the evidence that these men are scary? 99% of the people that I have met, both men and women, in networking situations have been lovely.

First of all work on your mindset: how do you know that you are not good at or confident about networking? What if you went to your networking meeting and actually you really enjoyed it?  Do you have particular rituals that you do to prepare yourself for going into a networking environment?  Please share them in the comments section below.