Sixty seconds and nerves

The Worst Sixty Seconds of Your Week – Do you need to manage your networking nerves?

It’s Tuesday morning. The dreaded morning!  The dreaded networking morning! The morning where you have to stand up in front of everyone and speak for 60 seconds about your business. A very long 60 seconds that seems to drag on for a life time.

You are sitting there, only half listening to other people giving their pitch whilst the rest of your mind is focused on the dreaded moment you have to stand up yourself.  You can see your turn getting closer and closer and as it does you can feel your heart beating in your chest, you realise that you’ve been clenching your fists and, embarrassingly, you can start to feel yourself sweating just at the point when you need to stand up and do your bit.  And as you start speaking you can feel your cheeks burning up and you stumble over your words in the rush to get through them. You are desperate to sit down again because surely, everyone is looking at you right now wondering why on earth they should give you their business if you can’t even stand up and speak to them about it for 60 seconds without becoming a nervous wreck!

If this sounds familiar don’t worry – you are not alone!  I have been networking for over 10 years now and one of the most common things people say to me about networking is that they hate giving their 60 second pitch.  Many other people tell me that is why they never go networking in the first place!

But why do we find these 60 seconds so difficult?  How do they get us in such a state?

Our brains are amazing organs but sometimes they get it wrong!  Our brain doesn’t understand our modern day lives and the stresses and worries that come with it. It can often mistake our day to day stresses for more primitive, life threatening situations.  So that 60 second pitch can be seen by our brain as an attacking lion!

And when our brain thinks we are about to be attacked by a lion it triggers our fight or flight response. It releases a huge surge of our stress hormone, cortisol, into our system. This cortisol increases our heart rate; raises our blood pressure so we’re pumping more blood to our heart; turns off our digestive system as that isn’t important right now (which is why we get that sinking or fluttering feeling in our tummies); tenses up all of our muscles all so that we are ready to run as fast as possible from that scary lion – or 60 second pitch!  At this point our brain triggers our cooling system as the last thing we need when we are running away from a scary lion is to overheat – so we start sweating.  That cortisol fogs our brain so we can’t think clearly, we can’t find the right words, the words we know so well but can’t seem to get out of our mouth.  And all our worst fears about that 60 second pitch turn into reality.

Finally those dreaded 60 seconds are over! We sit down, exhausted by the whole experience and already thinking about how much we are dreading next Tuesday morning!

But there can be a different way.

That 60 second pitch isn’t really an attacking lion so what can we do to help our brain get it right?

The trick is to create positive expectations of our 60 second pitch. You see, our brain is designed to act on what we predict is going to happen next so if we are expecting our 60 second pitch to be a complete disaster our brain will already be on high alert, looking out for that lion attack and flooding our system with cortisol ready to run at a moments notice.

By changing our expectations we change our brains reactions.  If we expect to be able to stand up and to clearly, confidently and calmly put forward our message our brain will begin acting in a very different way.  It will not be expecting lions for a start so our behaviour won’t be driven by a haze or cortisol.  Our brain will be looking out for all the opportunities available to us to help our expectations become reality.

We will pick up on the small things in other people that tell us what they are doing to put their message across, clearly, confidently and calmly and help us to mirror those behaviours.  Without the fog of cortisol we can access all those words we know so well about our business.  Without that fog of cortisol we can also think better on our feet, see opportunities in the room and maybe even change our 60 second pitch at the last minute in order to make the most of that opportunity.

Which all sounds great!  But how on earth do we change our expectations?  It is, of course, easier said than done but there are a few simple tricks we can use to over-ride our brains mis-connection between networking and lion attacks!

In the days before that dreaded networking event we tend to think about the worse case scenarios.  All those “What If’s” – What if I embarrass myself? What if I can’t remember what to say? What if I say the wrong thing? What if no one actually listens to me? What if no one is interested in my business? And the worst one – What if people laugh at me?  All of these “What If’s” are seen by our brain as a threat – that potential lion coming to attack us and already our brain puts us on high alert and it’s not even Tuesday morning yet!

The trick is to switch all those negative “What If’s” to positive ones.  Allow yourself to day dream about the best case scenario.  Imagine yourself confidently arriving at your networking meeting, happily chatting to those around you, catching up on their business news and sharing your own. Imagine yourself sitting down calmly, looking forward to hearing other people’s 60 seconds and knowing, without any doubt, that you will deliver your own 60 seconds confidently.  Imagine yourself listening intently to everyone else’s 60 seconds before standing up, with a smile on your face to ready to deliver your own.  Imagine the feeling of satisfaction that will give you as you know you delivered your message perfectly. Imagine the queue of people wanting to speak to you afterwards as your message really struck a chord. Imagine putting those follow up appointments in your diary knowing, with certainty that these are just the leads you wanted to generate at that meeting.

It’s as simple as that! I know it might sound all a bit “fluffy psychobabble” but trust me here – the science is on our side!  By using our imagination to shift our expectations our brain starts to respond in a very different way.  Remember, our brain is designed to act on what we predict will happen next.  And if we are predicting a very positive, confident outcome there is no need for our brain to expect a lion attack, there is no need for that cortisol release and we are not at the mercy of our primitive brain driving us to get as far away as we possibly can!

So try this, every night before you go to sleep, spend one minute imagining the perfect networking scenario. Paint that picture really bright in your mind, make it as vivid as you can.  Go through it from the start right to the finish, and remember to imagine it going perfectly, just as you want it to go.  Repeat this every night for the next week and just start to see how different your next networking experience is.

What you are doing with this activity is re-wiring your brain to expect a positive outcome. Our brain doesn’t know the difference between imagination and reality so every time you imagine that perfect scenario your brain thinks it is actually happening.  This means that even without going to networking you are giving yourself an opportunity to practice it in the best possible way allowing your brain to learn a different response.  And all of this without any lion attacks!

So, when it comes to next Tuesday morning you can be confident that you will be able to deliver your perfect 60 second pitch, the best 60 seconds of your week!  And you’ll also be the envy of everyone else in the room who is busy waiting for the lion to pounce!


Author Bio

Caroline Prout is a Clinical Hypnotherapist based in Northamptonshire. “I use the knowledge of how our brain works to reduce stress and anxiety and build confidence, motivation and self-esteem. Just imagine waking up every morning with a calm, focused mind, having absolute confidence that you excel at what you do. What difference would that make to your day? That is just the kind of result I get for my clients and it is frequently life changing”. Caroline offers a free initial consultation to help you understand how she can help you make positive changes in your life.

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