Executives are parents too.

My siblings, mom and I all too often mock my dad for his openly schmoozy ways. Whether it be with women at the cologne counter at Macy’s, a gas station attendant, or a waiter or waitress, my dad is proud to be a Chatty Cathy (well…his name is Bill, and Chatty Bill doesn’t have the same ring to it). It’s innate to him, creating conversation with complete strangers. And even more startling to us is how authentic and sincere his motives are. What’s the sense in standing in uncomfortable silence in an elevator, right?

Now, as I stand in elevators striking up conversations with total strangers, I can’t help but admittedly shake my head. I, too, am that Chatty Cathy— thanks, Dad! In fact, if you ask those closest to me, I pride myself the most in my ability to speaking to anyone— and I mean anyone. This is likely attributed to my dad too, whose 30+ years in human resources taught me that those otherwise-intimidating bosses across the table are people just like my dad. There shouldn’t be a soul sitting across the table who I can’t find something in common with. That’s what all humans crave, after all, is a meaningful connection with others. And while I’m certainly not the authority on how to interact with bosses, nor can I judge those who do have a little anxiety (“not everyone can have the world’s greatest dad, Brittany” comes to mind), I do think developing this competency gives me and my fellow Chatty Cathy’s (and Carl’s) an edge.

Literally speaking with strangers in elevators will only take you so far in a job pursuit, but it may be a nice exercise in increasing your level of comfort for legitimate networking opportunities.

Forbes recently suggested the following tips for how best to handle a brief networking opportunity, also known as an elevator speech:

1.  Speak first regardless of where you’re sitting. If the person facilitating the meeting says anyone can start, then don’t simply follow the leader. Be the leader. Doing so will cause others to perceive you as courageous and confident.

2.  Use your title. Women tend to simply mention a department or job function, but not a job title — particularly if it’s a BIG title. Men matter-of-factly drop the title so that everyone knows where they fall in the pecking order. Unless there’s some cultural taboo in your company about using titles, include it in your introduction as just one more data point about who you are professionally.

And while you’re at it — make sure you use your first and last name. Women often use only their first names whereas men use both first and last, thereby sounding more authoritative and taking up slightly more floor time.

3.  Enthusiastically express excitement about how you add value. High energy and enthusiasm are contagious. You want both associated with your professional brand. Additionally, you want others to mentally catalogue the value you add to your department or company.

My biggest piece of advice to those looking to improve their networking nerves—even executives are dads. In order to truly connect with potential employers, coworkers, or your waitress, eliminating the mystique and anxiety, and finding commonalities should and will help make a memorable impression.

What Do You Think: Are you intimidated by executives? What methods do you use to remedy any anxiety you may have?

Sources: Managing Impressions Starts With a Memorable Introduction, Forbes


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