Updated: Mar 1, 2020
When I was a kid, we moved around a lot. By the time I entered high school, I had changed schools five times. I HATED the first day of school. And the older I got, the harder it became to walk into a brand-new school on day one, knowing everyone else in that room had been in school together since kindergarten.
And all the “what ifs” swirled around in my head.
What if I’m not dressed right?
What if I’m behind in class on day one?
What if nobody sits next to me at lunch?
What if they think I’m weird?
I recently realized that I experience a lot of these same feelings when I attend conferences or networking events. When I walk into a room full of people, all of whom seem to belong there, I go back to that little fourth grader stepping into school for the first time, and I’m intimidated AF.
Anyone else feel that way? Is it just me?
What if nobody talks to me?
What if I don't look cool enough?
What if they roll their eyes or laugh when they say what I do?
What if they think I’m a fraud?
Here’s the thing. I have a really big personality. And as a coach, I’ve become really good at giving people my undivided attention, making them feel heard and important. I have an infectious energy and a quick, sharp wit. When I speak passionately about this amazing career that I freaking LOVE and am REALLY good at, I light up. And people see that light.
When I step into my authentic self, people are drawn to me. They want to know how they can get a piece of that light. So logically, I know I can own a room. What am I so afraid of?
The truth is that I’m afraid of nothing but an emotion. Even though I have hundreds of examples of how I’ve totally crushed it in professional and social settings, the most powerful memory is on the first day of fourth grade. Trust me when I tell you, that was a LONG time ago.
I coach people around these things for a living, and yet even I don't always push through my fear and intimidation in situations like this. And when I don't, I miss out on tons of opportunities to share my gifts and show people what makes me so good at what I do.
I don't want this to happen to you. This is what I want you to know, badass professional woman who’s a little stuck in your shy fourth-grader: You have the power to decide how you want to show up. And how you perceive the responses of those around you.
See, we have this tendency as humans to recall the negative experiences. Even if it was just once, a negative experience overpowers 100 positive ones. The trick is to train your brain to recall the positive ones. And since there are usually a lot of them, that can’t be so hard to do.
Do This: When you’re planning to step into a big roomful of people you don’t know and engage them with all your awesomeness, Make a mental list of five times you showed up authentically and had an amazing experience. Write it down. Study it. Hell, put it in your handbag if you need to.
And there’s a second step, just to make it more effective. The author, human behavior and mindset expert, and general badass Mel Robbins has the most simple, yet powerful, technique for launching yourself into action before you give your brain time to think about it. It’s called The Five Second Rule. It simply states that, “if you have an instinct to act on a goal, you must physically move within 5 seconds or your brain will kill it.”
Do This: Right before you walk in the door, take a deep breath, and literally count down: 5-4-3-2-1 GO! Don’t think. Count down. Just walk in, head up, smiling, as if you own that room. Because you do.
And the last step is the easiest of all. Just be you. The objective of networking is not to get a job or a new client or to sell something. The goal of networking is to intrigue someone enough that they want to have coffee with you in the future. Stepping into your authenticity is going to increase the odds of walking away from that event with a bigger, stronger network.
Do This: One simple trick is to make the conversation about the other person. Ask questions. Get curious. And then, find the intersections with what you do. Talk about what you do with passion and conviction. Let them see how it lights you up. It’s genuine. It’s authentic. And it will make a lasting impression.
I’m curious: Who struggles with this? Give me 30 minutes, and I can set you up to KILL IT the next time you’re in this situation. It’s free! Sign up here.