The Basics of Talking to Strangers: ‘…and Death Came Third!’ 10th Anniversary Celebration

Ten years ago, in 2006, Peter Roper and Andy Lopata published the first edition of ‘…and Death Came Third! The Definitive Guide to Networking and Speaking in Public’ on Bookshaker. The book was a big success with over 2,000 copies sold in the first 48 hours alone. Panoma Press published the second edition in 2011 and negotiated a separate edition published in Malaysia and Singapore.

We have consistently been amazed by the affection held for ‘…and Death Came Third!’ by many readers, reflected by the emails and comments we have received from people from a range of backgrounds. The book focuses on the basics of networking and presentation skills, giving readers simple approaches to working the room at networking events or giving their first talk.

To celebrate this, we have got together with our network to provide a series of short ‘Basics’ blogs. Over the month of September Andy, Peter and Panoma Press owner Mindy Gibbins-Klein will share a guest blog every day exploring the basics of business, from the basics of confidence and attitude to negotiation and strategy. We have also made the Kindle edition of this excellent book just £1.99 or $2.99 throughout September, so if you haven’t read it yet, get your copy now!

In our final blog of the series, co-author of ‘…and Death Came Third!’, Andy Lopata, explores the fear of approaching strangers.

So many of us suffer from it. Even after over 17 years of attending, speaking at, speaking about and writing about networking events, I still get butterflies before I walk into a room full of strangers.

The title of the book we’ve been celebrating over the last month was inspired by a 1984 New York Times survey on social anxiety where people were asked what they were most frightened of. Death, of course, came third. The top two fears in the survey were speaking in public in second and, top of the list, walking into a room full of strangers.

So what can you do to overcome that fear if you are a fellow sufferer. Here are some quick and simple tricks that have worked for me time and time again.

1 Rationalise your fear

The fears that hold us back so much are not based on realistic scenarios. Childhood warnings of ‘stranger danger’ mix with the desire to look good among our peers, a concern about being rejected or being made to look the fool.

In what way are any of those relevant to the modern day networking event? As long as you know you are in the right place, an environment where people have come along to build their networks and develop new relationships; as long as you are well presented, sober and hygenic; as long as you can bring something of relevant to the conversation (if you genuinely can’t, why are you there?), then you van put those fears to one side.

2. Get there early

The second person to arrive at an event almost inevitably talks to the first. Early arrivals rarely have to face that awkward moment when walking into a room full of people already deep in conversation and trying to find somewhere to fit.

Get there early and you’ll be drawn straight into the initial conversations, letting the event then build up around you.

3. Set yourself an objective

If you know why you are doing something that you find uncomfortable, it’s much easier to take the requisite action. If you’re goal is to meet new people, establish a target for how many conversations you will have with people you haven’t met before. Start with a low target, just to ease yourself out of your comfort zone but gradually increase it.

By the way, setting targets for numbers of people to talk to is only designed to help overcome nerves and laziness. It’s not an effective networking strategy in itself!

4. Ease your way in

If the water in a bath is too hot, you don’t just jump right in. Instead you dip your toe in first and then gradually allow your body to become accustomed to the temperature before completely immersing yourself.

It’s the same with a networking event. Chat to people you know and in whose company you’re comfortable when you first get there to allow yourself to become used to the environment. Just don’t spend the whole of the event with them.

5. Get Introduced

Have you noticed how we don’t have the same fear of meeting strangers when they are introduced to us by someone else? We have permission to interact with them at that point so our butterflies disappear.

Let the event hosts, the people you already know or the person you are in conversation with introduce you to your next conversation.

And my number one tip of all? No excuses! As Susan Jeffers eloquently said in her 1987 book title, ‘Feel the fear….and do it anyway’.

The co-author of ‘…and Death Came Third!’, Andy Lopata is the author of two other books on networking. He was labeled ‘one of Europe’s leading business networking strategists’ by The Financial Times’ and ‘a true master of networking’ by The Independent.

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Don’t forget: the Kindle edition of ‘…and Death Came Third!’ is available for just £1.99 or $2.99 throughout September. Get your copy now!

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