How to Overcome Your Fears

I have many!

Overcoming FearsThe fear of heights. The fear of roller coasters. High diving boards. Escalators. Balloons. Umbrellas. Black Sharpies. Selfies. Those that take excessive selfies. Clowns. Children’s birthday parties. Clowns that take selfies at children’s birthday parties.

There are some others but these are the ones I’m not embarrassed about sharing.

I’m sure you understand.

For me, here’s what took fear to another level! In July, I was scheduled to fight in my first “official” amateur boxing match in front of a few hundred people. The days and moments leading to the fight were worse than the actual fight. For someone used to being in front of audiences and taking risks, this took stage fright to another level. I can’t even describe the feeling. It’s an adrenaline rush like no other – and not the good kind. It must be the type of fear true fighters (not to say I am one) have to work at to overcome. Ever see the look on Michael Spink’s face when he entered the ring to face off against Mike Tyson? Well, that’s how I felt. (And that fight was over in 91 seconds.)

Getting into a boxing ring against a total stranger who wants nothing more than to stove my head in really put fear into perspective for me. I’m now afraid of nothing. Except for maybe balloons.

Anyway, I just delivered a talk to a group of over 140 people about how to network and make better connections. When I asked what’s prevented them from networking and meeting new people, they replied, “Fear.” Fear of the unknown. Fear of talking to strangers. Fear of failure. Fear of appearing needy. Fear of being embarrassed for saying the wrong thing. Fear of not knowing what to say. Or not to say. Fear of rejection. Fear of being uncomfortable. Fear of looking vulnerable.

Basically, fear.

The discussion made me realize that as terrified as I was to climb in a ring, there are job searchers and sales people just as terrified to climb into a cocktail party, association meeting, networking function, or chamber mixer. (It’s one of the reasons LinkedIn is so popular.)

Unless you overcome your fears, you’ll never be able to make enough connections to land a job, sell a product, and build enough great relationships to succeed.

Here are seven great ways to start overcoming your fears.

Relax
Most people are a little nervous when going to an event, especially their first. So you’re not alone! Take a deep breath and don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Just smile and understand that everyone in the room is looking for something or they wouldn’t be there! Relax and enjoy the ride! Try to make your experience fun. In fact, your top priority should be to have fun. If need be, fake it until you make it.

Prepare
One way to help you relax is to prepare yourself for the gig. Who will be there? Why will they be there? What do most of the attendees do for work? Or want to do for work? Why are you there? What specifically do you want? Ultimately, who do you want to meet? Go to the website that promotes the meeting or event you plan on attending and learn everything you can. If possible, call a coordinator or board member and ask questions about the event, the attendees, and how you can make the best use of your time. If you can connect with someone in charge, this can be tremendous in developing introductions and other in-roads.

Be Open to Learning about What Others Want
How can you learn about those you meet? Ask questions! Why are they there? What do they do? What do they want? How do they market? Who do they want to meet? Who are their clients? If you spend time asking great questions of those you meet, they’ll often ask you the same questions right back. “How about yourself?” Focus on helping others and they’ll be focused on helping you!

Present Yourself Clearly and Confidently
In knowing what you want, you have to be clear about what you want. You do that through good communication. Ask great questions and get great answers. Get great questions and give great answers. Be specific about what you do, what you know, who you serve, and who you want to meet. Put more emphasis on what you do rather than how you do it. Unless of course, they ask!

Go to the Right Places
Where are the best places you can go to accomplish what you want? This may seem like common sense but you would be surprised. A financial advisor focused on meeting successful people working in engineering should probably spend time going to association meetings for engineers. How about if you’re looking to land employment as a project manager in manufacturing? Go to the places where you’ll meet the people that can help you most. You might also target places that attract professions that are focused on serving the same market you are. Then you’re in a position to exchange introductions. Think professional associations, trade shows, and LinkedIn groups.

Think Quality not Quantity
It’s intimidating to go to an event and feel like you have to meet everyone or “work the room”. Well, you don’t have to meet everyone, especially at a large venue. Just focus on meeting 3 or 4 quality people – those you like, have a similar focus, don’t compete with you in any way, and are open to collaborating and helping. What more do you need?

Follow Up Promptly
If you make strong contacts, take the initiative to follow up promptly. Not following up is the same as having never met. The focus should be on following up and following through on all of your promises within 24 hours or the next business day. Make that promise as you exchange cards. You might coordinate a follow up meeting or call to continue to exchange ideas and explore how you might help one another. Stay in touch and continue to develop a relationship. The goal is to exchange referral business or opportunities.

As you attend more events, practice these approaches, and establish your own style, you’ll become more comfortable. Especially when you start meeting great people and generating positive results.

That’s where the fun really begins. We all started somewhere! Hope to see you at your next event. Just leave the Sharpies home.

Photo courtesy of: epSos .de

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