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Networking success strategies for introverts

This post originally ran as an article in AzNetNews, Volume 27, Number 1, February/March 2008.

A number of authors and writers are outgoing folks who find it easy to socialize, meet new people, and start conversations with strangers. For them, networking ― a most necessary component to creating and sustaining business relationships ― is easy, or at least not a dreaded chore. They look forward to bringing new friends and acquaintances into their circles, energized by people-meeting opportunities. They eagerly anticipate the chance to get out from behind the word processor to attend their various meetings, luncheons and mixers.

But what about the introverted author or writer? The person for whom meeting new people can be severely challenging, if not downright painful? Is networking any less important to their success? Definitely not. Even when you’re self-publishing out of your home office, building a platform and creating name recognition requires meeting a lot of people. Sometimes, just following up with new contacts can push an introvert beyond their comfort zone ― never mind actually getting out there to make pitches, give presentations, or attend trade shows and exhibitions.

Not all introverts are paralyzed by the thought of interacting with new people. As Mark Dykeman writes at The Mighty Introvert, “Introverts tend to enjoy having solitary time for thought and reflection. We are not as dependent on other people as extroverts are. Introverts are often quite happy to spend time alone.”

Though introverts can function well in the presence of other people, personal interaction can be exhausting to them. “After a while, we feel drained and frail like Superman does after being exposed to Kryptonite,” Dykeman writes.

So what is a highly introverted author to do when dread overwhelms their every effort to get out there and meet new people? Here are a few ideas.

  • Strive for balance. Realize that spending time with people is equally important as your solo writing time. If you’re extremely introverted, you may overlook the benefits of socializing with others, such as learning new information, developing relationships, personal growth, and just plain fun.
  • Practice socializing. Like most other skill sets, introverts can learn or improve their social skills. Many introverts tend to avoid social activities like networking events because they are uncomfortable or worry they might not know what to do or say in a given situation. This is the time to put that cliché to work: feel the fear and do it anyway, knowing that the more you practice, the easier it will become.
  • Fake it till you make it. You might be surprised to find that some people who seem like the biggest extroverts at your networking events are actually incredibly introverted. They have simply learned to exercise their social muscles for an hour or two at a stretch. Such an event may deplete them afterward, but they know the value of meeting new people and are willing to endure discomfort to do so.
  • Avoid labeling extroverts. If you generally find extroverted people to be superficial, aggressive, or annoying, no one could blame you for not wanting to be more like them or spend more time with them. By shifting your paradigm and expanding your vision of outgoing people, you’ll be more likely to want to interact with them.
  • Recognize the limits of online socializing. Meeting and connecting with people online tends to be much less intimidating than face-to-face socializing, but it can never take the place of real human contact. There’s no need to eliminate your social networking ― just make sure you don’t allow it to take the place of live events entirely.
  • Look for opportunities everywhere. The more chances you have to interact with people, the less importance each single meeting or event will have. This will actually relieve stress, rather than compound it.
  • Play up your strengths by putting others first. Worry less about what you should say and listen carefully to your conversation partners. When the times comes for you to speak, you will be able to weave their interests into your conversation.
  • Realize that you don’t need to brag to self-promote. Introverts sometimes hesitate to speak up because they worry that they lack particular expertise or knowledge. However, planning (and rehearsing, if need be) for your meetings ahead of time will give you the confidence to speak convincingly about your strengths and abilities without needing to embellish.
  • Take your time responding. Don’t assume that others have more right to speak up than you do just because they seem more confident than you feel. You don’t have to respond quickly; your quiet thoughtfulness may give you invaluable insight. If someone asks you an uncomfortable question or appears to demand an immediate answer, speak to the things you do know and ask questions that encourage others to share their knowledge and opinions.
  • Create a success mindset. Rather than fearfully imagining a networking breakfast as a place where you might be interrogated or judged, imagine it as having coffee with a circle of supportive friends and colleagues. Sooner than later, that will become your experience.

Remember Mr. Mutterer from the last post? No one is suggesting that you try to go from SHY to outgoing in one giant leap. It’s always easiest to implement one small change at a time. Many shy people remain introverted because they have built this perceived deficit into such a giant obstacle that they begin to believe that overcoming it is impossible. Making small changes to expand your comfort zone a little at a time will help you create the momentum to eventually take bigger steps.

Rather than setting a goal to become the Queen of Networking, set a personal goal to meet one new person at the next event you attend. Chances are, you’ll meet another introvert there who would welcome the chance to talk with you!

Laura

__________________

We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

__________________

There’s still time to get in on our 10-week program: SOCIAL MEDIA FOR AUTHORS. It starts Sept 5 and goes for 10 consecutive weeks. Sign up for single classes or pay for all 10 and receive a 25 percent discount. Week 1: Facebook Fan Pages (9/5/12); Week 2: Twitter (9/12/12); Week 3: LinkedIn (9/19/12); Week 4: Pinterest (9/26/12); Week 5: SlideShare (10/3/12); Week 6: YouTube (10/10/12); Week 7: StumbleUpon (10/17/12); Week 8: Ning (10/24/12); Week 9: Blogging 1 (10/31/12); Blogging 2 (11/7/12).

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A networking secret few people understand: Be engaged AND engaging

So I’ve been at this networking game for some time now, and yet I still regularly come across people who don’t see the value. “It just never works for me,” they wail. Here’s the thing: lots of people attend a single networking event, fail to meet anyone or find a customer, and assume networking just doesn’t work. Even those who’ve been in a group for a while may not be getting any business from the group – but there’s always a reason!

Ask yourself the following questions about your networking memberships:

  1. How often do you come late and leave early?
  2. How often do you text during the meetings or get up to take a phone call?
  3. How many people in the core group do you know by name?
  4. How many people know your name?
  5. How many people’s businesses do you know well enough that you can describe them to someone else?
  6. How many people understand precisely the kinds of books you write?
  7. How often have you made a referral to someone else in the group?
  8. How often have you talked about anything other than your latest book at a meeting?
  9. How often have you invited another member to coffee or lunch?
  10. How often have you sent a handwritten note to another member?
  11. How often have you donated a gift or door prize?

With the exception of the first two questions, more is better for all of the above. My rule of thumb has always been that you can’t really begin to expect to see results from a group until you have attended long enough for people to miss you when you skip a meeting.

Networking is kind of like church … or school … or relationships … or pretty much any other aspect of life. You get out what you put into it. If you go into it viewing it as a chore, something you have to do, as opposed to a fun opportunity to meet new people and eventually grow your circle of influence, you are significantly affecting your outcomes ahead of time. Think about it. How attracted would you be to someone who muttered, played with the drink in his hands, and looked at his feet while you were introducing yourself? On the other hand, how attracted would you be if the same person smiled broadly and seemed genuinely happy to meet you?

Now, step back a minute and view the scene again, this time watching Mr. Mutterer meet Happy Smiley Guy. Which one more closely matches your persona at a networking event? I understand that not everyone is an extrovert, and that networking can prove challenging for those who are naturally less outgoing. We’re going to talk about that very thing in the next post. Nevertheless, think about your goals again. What do you want to accomplish? If it’s to expand your circle and create greater name recognition, you’ll need to cheer up and embrace networking like you actually enjoy it.

You’ve heard of faking it till you make it, right? Chances are that if you give yourself the opportunity to enjoy meeting new people, sooner than later you actually will enjoy meeting new people and networking will seem like less of a chore.

Make your next networking event a research project. Watch the engaging people. What makes them so interesting and enjoyable to be around? What do they do? How do they speak? How do they carry themselves? How can you mimic a little of their mojo while still making it your own? You’ll likely come across as a phony if most of them know you as Mr. Mutterer but, out of nowhere, you begin employing a big hearty laugh and slapping people on the back.

Here’s one thing to keep in mind: interesting people are interested people. Genuinely focusing on the other person is a great way to make a good first impression. It also helps shift the focus from yourself and any worry you might have about what you’ll say or how you’ll be perceived.

Even if you’ve never seen the value of networking, I encourage you to go into it with a new mindset and give it another try. Then come back and tell us about your experiences!

Here’s to your new networking success!

Laura

__________________

We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

__________________

There’s still time to get in on our 10-week program: SOCIAL MEDIA FOR AUTHORS. It starts Sept 5 and goes for 10 consecutive weeks. Sign up for single classes or pay for all 10 and receive a 25 percent discount. Week 1: Facebook Fan Pages (9/5/12); Week 2: Twitter (9/12/12); Week 3: LinkedIn (9/19/12); Week 4: Pinterest (9/26/12); Week 5: SlideShare (10/3/12); Week 6: YouTube (10/10/12); Week 7: StumbleUpon (10/17/12); Week 8: Ning (10/24/12); Week 9: Blogging 1 (10/31/12); Blogging 2 (11/7/12).

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Setting networking goals will improve your results

You probably wouldn’t ask someone to marry you on the first date or respond well to someone who popped the question after one drink. Well, networking is like business dating, so don’t go in expecting to “close the deal” or sell a bunch of books.

The smartest way to view a networking event is as an opportunity to meet new people and get to know a little about them. Later, you can decide if and how you’d like to further the relationship. You will make the most of the opportunity if you are upbeat, receptive, and willing to make the first overture.

One of the best ways to get more out of your networking meetings is to set goals or intentions before you go. You know what a believer I am in the law of attraction, right? Well, networking is a great way to see it in action. By setting an intention for the outcome(s) you want to achieve ahead of time, you’re already on your way to achieving those results!

Here are just a few types of goals you might set when going out to do some business dating.

  • Meet 5 new people.
  • Introduce 3 people who don’t know each other.
  • Take a break from writing for a while.
  • Talk with someone other than the UPS guy.
  • Provide a testimonial for your graphic designer.
  • Get a referral for an expert you’re looking to hire.
  • Take a guest with you.
  • Enjoy a nice lunch.
  • Have fun!

These are just a few ideas to get you started. I encourage you to think about your own goals as an author. What are the outcomes you’d like to achieve through your networking? Decide, set your intentions, and then watch the magic happen!

Next time, we’ll talk about what it takes to be engaged and engaging.

Happy business dating!

Laura

__________________

We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

__________________

There’s still time to get in on our 10-week program: SOCIAL MEDIA FOR AUTHORS. It starts Sept 5 and goes for 10 consecutive weeks. Sign up for single classes or pay for all 10 and receive a 25 percent discount. Week 1: Facebook Fan Pages (9/5/12); Week 2: Twitter (9/12/12); Week 3: LinkedIn (9/19/12); Week 4: Pinterest (9/26/12); Week 5: SlideShare (10/3/12); Week 6: YouTube (10/10/12); Week 7: StumbleUpon (10/17/12); Week 8: Ning (10/24/12); Week 9: Blogging 1 (10/31/12); Blogging 2 (11/7/12).

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When it comes to networking, how well are you “wrapping your package”?

One of my very first clients in Phoenix was a beautiful, accomplished businesswoman who ran her company out of her home office. Since I’d only met her under casual circumstances, I remember being utterly shocked when I attended an event she invited me to – her “professional” suit was REALLY short and VERY tight and revealed MORE than ample cleavage. It was the least professional attire I could imagine anyone wearing, let alone someone as accomplished as she seemed to be, and I couldn’t fathom why she would choose to dress that way. Turned out, that was her standard business attire. For whatever reason, she seemed to believe that she needed to vamp it up to achieve her goals.

I have to imagine, however, that I was not the only person to perceive her clothing as questionable. As speaker and celebrity trainer Joel Bauer famously says, “You have 4 seconds to make an impression on someone, which is why it’s so essential that you wrap your package properly.” At his live events, Bauer sifts through the audience, pointing out those with whom he might consider doing business, based solely on their appearance. I’ve got to wonder how my former client would fare under Bauer’s withering inspection.

The thing about making a good first impression is that you have an enormous amount of control over it. When it comes to the networking game, here are several things to keep in mind before venturing out to your next event. Yes, yes, yes – some of these should go without saying. But I have personally encountered every one of these missteps at the hundreds of networking events I’ve attended over the years. It’s really just a matter of thinking before you walk out the door.

  • If you’re a smoker, you’re probably so used to the smell of cigarettes that you don’t notice it anymore. Nonsmokers will notice, though. A friend of mine used to keep a canister of Fabreze in his car to tame the old-ashtray smell before he went into networking and other similar events.
  • While perfume may be a more pleasing scent than cigarettes, too much can be overwhelming. Go light on the scent (or go without, entirely) when heading to an event with lots of other people. No one should be able to smell you coming, whether it’s cloves or Chanel No. 5.
  • Dress appropriately. Ladies, this means wearing a jacket or outer shirt. Men, you’ll want to wear a collared shirt, if not a tie (less likely during the summer months in Phoenix and other HOT locales). Things to avoid: flip-flops, t-shirts, tank tops, shorts, short skirts (hint: if you have to keep pulling at it as you walk, it’s too short); tops that overemphasize your chesty endowment. You want to be memorable,  but for the right reasons. The only exception is if you have a REASON to wear something outlandish or unusual. For instance, if you wrote an Italian cookbook, go ahead and dress like a chef!
  • Be polite about interruptions. Whatever you do, avoid crashing a conversation between two people – even if you very badly want to meet/speak to one of them. Wait patiently a few feet away, but don’t hover about looking overanxious. You don’t want to be remembered as the jerk who barged in on an important conversation.
  • Give people your full attention. If you are introduced to someone, or they make an effort to meet you on their own, give them the courtesy of your full attention while conversing with them. There’s nothing worse than noticing the other person check their watch or look past your shoulder to glance around the room. However, this doesn’t mean you need to stay glued to them all night. When a new person doesn’t seem to know how to wrap things up, a polite, “It’s been nice chatting with you,” should give them a hint.
  • Repeat a  new person’s name upon meeting them. This will help you imprint their name so that you can recall it later, even if later is only to say, “Nice to meet you, Jim,” at the end of the conversation. Some people are really embarrassed about forgetting a person’s name or having someone forget theirs – I am not. I would much rather have someone say, “Remind me of your name,” than shuffle about and try to pretend it might come to them.
  • Avoid the “Business Card Shuffle.” A networking event is not a race to see who can collect the most cards first. It’s an opportunity to begin building new relationships. A good rule of thumb is to wait until someone asks for your card before handing one to them.

You’ve likely encountered other faux pas at networking events. This isn’t meant to be an exhaustive list – just a reminder about how to make the best first impression you can.

Next up, we’re going to explore setting goals and intentions for our networking success. As with anything in life, what we focus on in our networking efforts expands. In the meantime,get out there and keep on making good first impressions!

Laura

__________________

We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

__________________

There’s still time to get in on our 10-week program: SOCIAL MEDIA FOR AUTHORS. It starts Sept 5 and goes for 10 consecutive weeks. Sign up for single classes or pay for all 10 and receive a 25 percent discount. Week 1: Facebook Fan Pages (9/5/12); Week 2: Twitter (9/12/12); Week 3: LinkedIn (9/19/12); Week 4: Pinterest (9/26/12); Week 5: SlideShare (10/3/12); Week 6: YouTube (10/10/12); Week 7: StumbleUpon (10/17/12); Week 8: Ning (10/24/12); Week 9: Blogging 1 (10/31/12); Blogging 2 (11/7/12).

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10 reasons authors SHOULD make face-to-face networking a priority

Since we’ve been talking a bit about networking the last couple of posts, I decided to do a series of posts on the subject. You may groan, thinking I’m an author – what possible benefits could there be for me in networking? Or you may already be a fairly stellar networker, in which case, perhaps you could add your own thoughts to these posts in the comments section. The fact is that unless you are trained to do it well, you may not (a) see the value of networking, (b) do it very well, or (c) find it as highly beneficial as it could be. Our goal with this series is to help you correct those issues.

According to virtually every marketing expert, face-to-face meetings have the highest value in terms of making connections and building your sphere of influence. Yes, there’s a limit to the number of people you can meet, but that should not deter you from making the effort. The following are 10 reasons you, as an author, should make the effort to do some regular face-to-face networking.

  1. Get out from behind the keyboard. As you’re no doubt aware, writing is an isolated profession. Sure, you can hit your favorite coffeehouse for some socialization, but sitting amid a bunch of noisy strangers is not really the same as creating meaningful conversations and connections. Regular networking gives those of us who spend a lot of time alone the chance to mix and  mingle with other like-minded folks.
  2. Practice talking about your book. Unless you are truly blessed with the gift of gab, chances are that it’s easier to write your message than it is to tell other people about it. Regular networking gives you the opportunity to do the ubiquitous 30-second commercial, during which time you can practice pitching your book.
  3. Meet other authors and writers. Virtually every industry has organizations devoted to it. Writing and publishing is no different. Sometimes it’s just good to get together with other writers to compare notes, share war stories, and swap tips and hints. One caveat: If you’re a freelancer and you’re networking with other freelancers, you must [learn to] embrace a prosperity perspective that says there’s plenty of work for all of you, rather than going to a place of pettiness and lack that pits you against each other as competitors.
  4. Meet other publishing industry experts. Beyond meeting other writers, it’s always good to grow your network of other publishing industry expertspeople like editors, book designers, videographers who specialize in book trailers, web designers, intellectual property attorneys, etc.
  5. Be a resource for others. One of the fastest ways to create goodwill is by giving first. Regular networking gives you the opportunity to become a resource for others, whether that means making appropriate introductions, sharing tips and tools, or simply cheering on your colleagues’ successes.
  6. Learn new skills. Many networking events are tied to business development groups that offer presentations by speakers and experts of all stripes. If you’re new to publishing, or to business in general, these can be excellent opportunities to learn specific new skills like marketing, social media, accounting, public speaking, presentation skills, etc.
  7. Take a leadership role. When you find the right organization and decide to join, there’s almost a built-in opportunity to enhance your leadership skills by taking on a role within the organization. This does two things: (1) It helps you further develop your own skill set. (2) It gives you greater visibility within the organization.
  8. Open doors to speaking opportunities. As an organization leader, you will likely find yourself making greater connections with experts, speakers, and other organizational leaders. Pay attention and listen closely, and you may learn of excellent opportunities to speak and/or present to other groups.
  9. Create name recognition. One thing every author needs is a platform, which begins with local name recognition. Even if you live in a fairly small community, it will never hurt for more people to recognize and refer to you as an author. Parlay that renown into speaking opportunities, sales, and more.
  10. Sell more books. Many networking events make vendor tables/booths available to members and/or attendees. In the right setting, you can use such an opportunity to sell more books and create even greater visibility from which to grow your platform.

Next up, we’re going to dive into the basics: how to make a good first impression. You’d be amazed at how many things affect the way people think of you on your first meeting!

In the meantime, put your SBM thinking caps on and consider (new) places you might get out and make yourself visible!

Laura

__________________

We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

__________________

There’s still time to get in on our 10-week program: SOCIAL MEDIA FOR AUTHORS. It starts Sept 5 and goes for 10 consecutive weeks. Sign up for single classes or pay for all 10 and receive a 25 percent discount. Week 1: Facebook Fan Pages (9/5/12); Week 2: Twitter (9/12/12); Week 3: LinkedIn (9/19/12); Week 4: Pinterest (9/26/12); Week 5: SlideShare (10/3/12); Week 6: YouTube (10/10/12); Week 7: StumbleUpon (10/17/12); Week 8: Ning (10/24/12); Week 9: Blogging 1 (10/31/12); Blogging 2 (11/7/12).

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