‘Tis the Season to Be Networking

Seasons Greetings! With the holidays upon us, and all the holiday parties and gatherings, there is no better time of year to brush up on your networking and social interaction skills! This is the busiest time of year for adult social interaction and you can make these events fruitful opportunities to build your contacts and network.

Do you feel excited about the holiday parties, or filled with dread? Often, we view social situations with some fear, and our gremlins are very willing to reinforce our negative thoughts. Do you have concerns about how to introduce yourself and your business, while also remaining authentic, enrolling and relaxed? You might think this combination is impossible to attain, but I assure you that it’s not!

Another gremlin you might have lurking around is that introverts aren’t any good at networking. This is completely false, and many studies have shown that extroverts and introverts can network equally well.

So what’s the magic secret? It’s deceptively simple – be a coach and be yourself! Sounds too easy, right? Well, here are some reasons why it is so simple.

Reason 1: One of the reasons why coaching is so powerful is that people rarely take time to focus on themselves and their dreams. As a coach, your job is to help people examine their lives, their dreams, and their challenges. One of your objectives is to help your client get enrolled in themselves and the potential in their lives. You don’t need to be in a formal coaching session to do this! You can easily create this same atmosphere of curiosity and support within a social situation.

Reason 2: It’s not possible to be someone or something you aren’t. No matter how hard you try, it will be clear that you are trying to be different than your authentic self. Over the years I’ve found that the most successful coaches are at peace with themselves, not acting or trying to be different from their authentic selves. This isn’t to say that they aren’t working on improving themselves but rather that they are comfortable being who they are, in that moment, warts and all. This leads to a deep sense of authenticity and connection – key factors to establishing a relationship.

Ok, I can hear you thinking – “Stop with this simplistic theory stuff – tell me what to do!” Before we get into the “doing” of networking, I’m going to give you two scenarios, and I’d like you to read them and decide which one might be more enrolling, and why. In these two examples I’m providing only the words of the coach as you can figure out the responses from the coach’s words.

Scenario A
I enter the room and approach a person.

  • Hi, I haven’t been to this event before. My name’s Dorcas Kelley. What’s your name? Pleased to meet you Paul. What type of work do you do? Oh, you’re an XYZ! What do you enjoy most about your work? What is it about (an enjoyable aspect of job) that’s important to you? Where do you see yourself in 3 years? What would you like to be different? What’s needed to bring that change about? What do you see are the challenges you might face in making this happen? What’s one action you could take right now that will move you closer to your goal?
  • Oh, what work do I do? I’m a business coach. I help entrepreneurs and business owners achieve their dreams. I’ve really enjoyed talking with you and I’d love to talk some more about your dream of (whatever the person’s dream or goal is). Would you like to have coffee or lunch sometime next week to talk about it some more?

Scenario B

I enter the room and approach a person.

  • Hi, I haven’t been to this event before. My name’s Dorcas Kelley. What’s your name? Pleased to meet you Paul. What type of work do you do? Oh, you’re an XYZ! How long have you been doing that? How did you get into that line of work? What do you think about working for ABC company? Do you enjoy your work?
  • Oh, what work do I do? I’m a business coach. I help entrepreneurs and business owners achieve their dreams. I’m a certified co-active coach and I’ve been coaching and consulting for nearly 20 years. My passion is to help you create the profession that you love and I’d be delighted to provide you with a complimentary coaching session. Would that be of interest to you?

So which scenario do you think is more effective and enrolling? (Answer: Scenario A)

What differences do you see between the two scenarios? There are many, and some of them are subtle. Here are a couple of critical ones:

  • Scenario A asks thought-provoking questions that will stay with your conversation mate. Scenario B asks fairly superficial, light-conversation questions, and they don’t create much engaging dialogue. Because of the deeper nature of the questions in scenario A, it may feel a bit riskier and less comfortable for you but it will have a greater impact on your conversation mate. Go ahead – take the risk!
  • Scenario A also asks very open-ended questions that cannot be answered with just a few words. The questions in scenario B can be answered quickly and easily, with little thought needed. This can lead to quickly running out of conversation and a level of disengagement.
  • The objective, in scenario A, is to spark the other person so that they are thinking about their future and the possibilities they might find there. The objective is not for the coach to impart information about themselves or their coaching business. In scenario B, there is a “talking at” feeling instead of an “engaging with.” This is a subtle distinction, but one with a big impact. You want to engage your conversation mate, not in you but rather in themselves, and in looking at what is possible for them. Even just one or two thought-provoking questions can leave a strong, positive impression. Your conversation mate will remember you because you got them to think about themselves in a new way.
  • Scenario A doesn’t include the typical 10 or 20-second commercial, also known as an “elevator speech.” These are useful typically when you are in a setting where you have 10 or 20 seconds to introduce yourself and your business to a group, and are less effective for use in a one-on-one conversation. All you need to do is introduce the concept that you are a coach, that you are interested in talking with them more, and give them a business card. Your conversation mate will have gotten a taste-test of coaching through your conversation, which is better than any commercial or elevator speech you could give.
  • In scenario A, there is no offer of a “complimentary coaching session,” but rather for a subsequent cup of coffee or lunch to talk about their dream or goal. Just a friendly conversation with the objective of talking about them and their dreams. Who could refuse such an offer? Most people, being new to the concept of coaching, feel that the offer of a “free session” is like an offer for a free vacuum cleaner demonstration and sales pitch. Yuck! Offer them a chance to continue the conversation in a way that is ordinary, commonplace, easy to do, and non-threatening, with no special titles or words.

There are two other “words of wisdom” I want to impart. One is to truly be unattached to the outcome of the conversation. I don’t mean apathetic, but rather not invested in the person responding in a particular way. Not everyone is ready for coaching just because we talk to them about it. Their response has to do with them, and where they are at in their life, and is not a reflection of your value or worth or success as a coach. If you find yourself attaching significant meaning to their reaction (“Oh no, he’s not interested in having coffee with me. I must suck as a coach” “Darn, I guess I blew that one. I’ll never be successful.”) I strongly recommend that you work with your own coach to address these gremlins and shrink them down to a minimized size.

The second hint is to always be looking for how your conversation mate is inspirational. We know, in our hearts, that every person is inspiring. Often we may not see the inspiring aspects because we simply don’t look with the intent of being inspired. Once you assume that everyone you meet is inspirational, you will begin to see how this is true. You will see how they are inspiring and will, in turn, reflect their inspiration back at them, sparking their soul and giving them the greatest gift in the world – love and acknowledgement for themselves. Seek inspiration in each person, and you will find it!

So go forth into your holiday parties, be yourself, be a coach, “prepare to be inspired,” and take the risk to ask the deep questions. You will find that your conversations will be richer, and your new connections will be stronger and more meaningful. If you’d like additional information and exercises for improving your networking skills, I invite you to purchase my bookset, in which I have a whole chapter devoted to this topic.

As always, if you have any questions or feedback, feel free to contact me. I’d love to hear about your own networking experiences and wisdom. How do these tips work for you? Inquiring minds want to know!

Best wishes for a relaxing and love-filled holiday season!
Dorcas Kelley CPCC CMC PCC

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