Business Zen: The Neuroscience of Networking
A few weeks ago, I attended a terrific Washington Network Group event* called the Neuroscience of Networking. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but the idea of finding out what goes on in my brain while networking sounded intriguing. The event turned out to be more of a workshop than a lecture. Led by Suzanne Kryder, author of The Mind to Lead – Coaching for Calm, Confident Power, the session introduced three very powerful (and easy-to-remember!) tactics for more effective networking.
First, know that when you introduce yourself at a networking event and your palms feel sweaty, your mind starts getting tripped up because it wants to say a hundred things at once, and you generally just feel like a dork, you are not alone. Most of us have had similar experiences. For “caveman survival” we were born that way. It turns out that an area of the brain called the amygdala, whose primary role is the processing and memory of emotional reactions, is really good at hijacking your higher brain’s senses and inducing the well-known “flight or fight” response.
To help counteract this tendency, Suzanne suggests using our prefrontal cortex instead. This area of the brain is good at keeping us more focused on the here and now. One of the easiest ways to tap into its power is to notice your surroundings. For example, before beginning to speak, take a deep breath, notice the colors of the room, maybe something that the person standing in front of you is wearing. Feel your feet firmly on the ground. Just be in the present moment. Then…
Say a few targeted sentences that clearly describe who you are and what you do. Suzanne calls this laser messaging and it’s the second tactic for an improved networking experience. The idea is to allow what you say to sink into your recipient’s ear by limiting yourself to sentences of 12 words or less. Many of us have learned by experience that we can only remember a few bits of information at a time anyway, so if you think about it, this makes complete sense. During the workshop, we all had to practice talking to each other using laser sentences and waiting for responses from our partners before saying something else. I have to say, it was quite a challenge!
The third and final networking tactic to employ is to listen well. Make sure you ask the person you are exchanging information with, who they are and what they do. How long has he or she been in business and what market are they primarily targeting? This may seem obvious, but often we get so caught up in sharing our own story that we forget to be mindful and present with the person we are attempting to meet.
- Focus your mind by being present and noticing your surroundings
- Use targeted laser sentences using 12 words or less — wait for responses
- Ask your networking partner what he or she does and listen well
At the end of the session, I was so inspired by all that I had learned, that I purchased a copy of The Mind to Lead. I’ve only just started reading it, but if Suzanne Kryder’s book is as good as her workshop, I know it will be worth the effort. Look for future posts covering the book.
Best to all, Meredith
* This workshop was organized by the Washington Network Group. I recently joined and am very impressed by what the group offers!