From the perspective of the extremely anxious speaker, it all comes on too fast and furious; dry mouth, a quivering voice, tight throat, the shakes, breathless lungs and a surreal physical sensation of upside-down backward vertigo as if you’re whipping about in The Scrambler in the same tight car with Satan, The Elephant Man and Ethel Merman. What a ride! Fans of Jerry Seinfeld and his NBC sitcom can easily repeat the old glossophobia comedic nugget that Jerry trots out during one special episode when he wryly comments . . . “The average person at a funeral would rather be in the casket than doing the eulogy.” That one fact is more than just eye-opening — it’s absolutely mind-boggling!
There was a time when speech was a required course in high school. Though it lasted just one never-ending semester, I now understand that most high-stress, life-threatening situations have a tendency to register deeply in both the conscious and subconscious minds — giving our fragile teen psyche’s more post-traumatic bang for the buck. In there was a small elevated stage and an amplified podium but to us it might as well have been gallows and a chopping block. Reaching the podium, caused each of us to nervously glance downward at the floor. Our hands would absent-mindedly inspect the podium top for evidence proving it was meant to hold more than note cards, a stopwatch and water to drown a bone dry throat. The podium, the stage, the class itself — were devices of torture and, ultimately, death by glossophobia.
IS IT POSSIBLE YOU HAVE NETWORKING ALL WRONG?
Perhaps you’ve got this networking thing all wrong — maybe it’s the snake oil sellers who make it seem evil. If so, it’s time to kill the monster that makes it all seem intolerable. Business ownership or management does require an ability to speak to a crowd and deliver a practiced message. Attracting customers and new employees can’t be ignored. Engaging and moving an audience, for whatever the purpose, is invaluable today. Being genuine moves mountains. Maybe you perceive networking as something that’s strictly commercial and exploitative; as if you see yourself as one of those guys shouting for attention and handing out fliers on busy streets. Nothing could be further from the truth. Regardless of our fast changing world, there is one vital element that will never change: People buy from other people and given a choice they’ll buy from people they like — the ones who have reached them. Here’s how to help sidestep what you dislike about networking:
• Use words and gestures to paint big ideas. Don’t waste face-to-face time with brochures or spreadsheets, you have e-mail for that.
• Engage your partner by asking enough questions about their business to get them passionate and then take notes. What they are sharing now is the top secret stuff that can form your strategic plan to win them over.
• Don’t bother too much with “qualifying” now, everyone you meet has the ability to reward you with value (i.e., sales, introductions, knowledge, friendship, etc.) so treat all with care.
• If you concentrate on just one thing, make it being memorable — be distinctive, be thought-provoking, be fully present in the moment and remember: It’s far better to make one really smart comment than 30 minutes of small talk just to feel part of things.
• As with anything in life you would like to transform, follow the great Mohandas Ghandi’s creed and “Be the change you wish to see in the world” and soon you may find yourself a lover of Business Networking!
About the author: Chris Traynor, Surface Fabrication’s senior business columnist, is director and knowledge scout for Whip-Smart Management Consulting LLC, Wayne, N.J. (www.whip-smart.com), as well as a board-certified senior professional in human resources (SPHR). Traynor has 25 years of experience in the solid surface industry as a consultant to fabricators, distributors, manufacturers and associated firms. He can be reached at email@example.com.