While attending a business event, do you utilise the opportunity to connect with people or look around for a dark corner where you can’t be seen? If the answer is a profound yes, several times in a row, you need to get over your fear of public speaking.
Puducherry is a small, but beautiful place that entices you with its colonial French architecture that lines the blue water of the Bay of Bengal. The best way to navigate its narrow but well-planned, symmetrical lanes is on a two-wheeler that is available on rent at a couple of outlets downtown. I had the opportunity to take one on rent to zoom across this captivating French Riviera of the East. Wherever you go, you find a group of tourists out there to experience the plenty of French delight. It looks like the whole city is celebrating one big event with people from across the world converging at the same place. You would soon realize that it is easy to connect with fellow tourists and just a nod followed by a smile is enough to open a fresh conversation. This could just be about sharing the experience of being in a city as nice as Puducherry or a long-drawn discussion over matters of profession and business. Wherever it may lead, it has in its foundation our willingness to connect with other people.
The rise of social networking is an extension of the human desire to connect and share information. It is now so much a part of our lives that much of our activity online is focused around the likes of Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. This is partly because it is both fun and serious business, and also because it is convenient to click a button and request people to “add to your network.” Are you that quick to reach out to others during a business event or a social gathering that you attend? If not, you are missing out on a good opportunity that can open new doors in your entrepreneurial journey.
Here are a few tips to reach out:
Go Prepared: Give importance to every event or social gathering. Try to know more about the topics that would come up for discussion. Knowing about the speakers and other delegates in advance would be a good idea. You can seek an appointment to meet before, during, or at the end of the event. Even if the event does not directly relate to your stream of business, you will still find that some of the issues that come up for discussion can be indirectly linked to your business. For instance, almost all businesses face challenges relating to marketing, human resource, funding, technology, etc. It is a good idea to keep a few questions, comments, or suggestions prepared well in advance. Write them down if you feel it will be difficult to make a brief intervention during the event.
Break the Ice: This is where it all begins. After entering a hall filled with people, you suddenly find yourself unsure of whom to approach and what to talk. This is the toughest part until you have broken the ice. After that, it’s a smooth sail. The conference host could be your best bet here. You can request him/her to introduce you to the lead speakers at the event. You can even let the host know that you are keen to either ask a question or a make a comment during the proceedings at the event.
Introduction Please: Unless you are at your niece’s wedding where everybody knows you, you will have to make the effort to introduce yourself. If you find yourself fumbling while making an introduction, your business card can come in handy. Extend it gracefully after a warm handshake, and half the work is done. It is likely that the person receiving the card will be keen to know more about your work. If nothing comes to mind, weather is always a good point to start a conversation with.
The Person Sitting Next To You: Sometimes we spend a lot of time looking for the “right” people to connect with during tea and lunch breaks, when we hardly care to know the person sitting next to us. He/she is there for the same reason as you, so begin with a hello and take the conversation forward. This will make you comfortable in your seat and help you get over your initial hesitation.
Nothing Is Perfect: In the words of John Kotter, professor at Harvard Business School, “Good communication does not mean that you have to speak in perfectly formed sentences and paragraphs. It isn’t about slickness. Simple and clear go a long way.” If you have a point, make it as soon as it comes to mind. If you go about choosing appropriate words to describe it, you are likely to miss the opportunity to speak. If you still have hesitation, it is better to quickly jot it down on a piece of paper and read it out. It is not the perfect sentence that matters but the clarity of your thoughts and expression.
Practice, Practice, Practice: Fear of public speaking is quite common, so you might not be the only one hesitating to speak. If you have been called to make a formal speech, it is better to practice it a couple of times in front of a mirror or have your friend point out a few changes that would make you come across as a better speaker. This goes well with the non-verbal communication part of making the right gestures and facial expressions while speaking.
Vimarsh Bajpai is a content and communications consultant. As the founder of Samvad Sutra, he works with organizations and individuals to help them communicate better. Interact with him on Twitter @vimarshbajpai.
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The views expressed here are that of the author and do not represent the magazine's.
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