Meet Ken. He trained as an engineer now turned consultant. He’s super smart, very creative, and hands-on. Married with two children, he lives in the burbs, drives a Prius, and likes to read science fiction in his spare time.

Ken has an amazing talent for seeing the big picture and applying ideas from many disciplines to formulate revolutionary solutions for his clients. Yet he’s struggling to find more business because he is awkward around people. He becomes tongue-tied when someone approaches and asks the dreaded question, “What do you do?”

To attract more business, he attends networking events. Yet the idea of spending a couple of hours in a room and making chit-chat is a turn-off. He doesn’t know what to say or how to follow up once he’s in a conversation. He’s tempted to retreat to his office and focus entirely on marketing via the internet. Yet, at some point, he faces the same uncomfortable moment when he has to respond to a voice inquiry and talk on the phone.

Here are some suggestions for Ken and people like him. First, practice extending your hand, looking the other individual squarely in the eye, and giving a firm shake. Initially, Ken felt funny taking the initiative to greet someone this way. When he began to understand this behavior as input and data, he developed more poise in doing so.

Ken developed a brief elevator pitch. Eliminating jargon, he can state concisely the benefits of what he does for the consumer. He no longer tries to download everything about his business to the listener; rather he makes a judgment whether this person is worth a follow-up conversation. If so, he exchanges business cards.

Another tip he employs is setting a goal for each networking event. He decides ahead of time how many leads to gather. He has learned to read the attendance list and scan the room to select appropriate people he wishes to meet. Importantly, Ken has also mastered an exit strategy so that he can leave the conversation without coming across as being abrupt or rude.

Having a strategy and script for what to say during the meeting and afterward has reduced Ken’s anxiety, boosted his confidence, and generated new clients.