For Women in Technology International (WITI). Target: 5-7 minutes core presentation, lots of discussion, 5-minute wrap-up at the end. Target 750-1050 words. ~830 words so far. Creative constraint: Tweetable segments. This will be an update of The Shy Connector (Aug 2009).
The Shy Connector: How to get strangers to talk to you.
Hi, I’m Sacha Chua, and I’m an introvert. <clapping>
You might be too. Do you prefer bookstores more than bars? Puzzles more than parties? Close friends more than crowds?
It can be hard to connect as an introvert. LinkedIn and Facebook can feel like high school popularity contests. Meetups can be overwhelming.
What can you do if you’re shy about sharing yourself?
There are plenty of books and blogs about social networking, because success and happiness often depends on who you know and who knows you.
“Sell yourself!” “Brand yourself!” “Attend as many events as you can!” “Talk to people in the elevator!” Right.
Most of the networking tips I’ve read seem to be for extroverts who don’t find it hard to talk to strangers.
Me, I hate starting conversations. I find it hard to make small talk. I’m often too shy to reach out. Following up with people takes effort.
Sounds familiar? Ever felt that way too?
Here are seven things I’ve learned about connecting. I hope these tips will help you play to your strengths…
… because those characteristics of yours are strengths.
Tip 1: Being an introvert is okay.
You don’t need to fake being extroverted. You don’t need to be a glad-handing, business-card-throwing networker.
Go ahead. Listen and ask questions during conversations. Give yourself quiet time to recharge. Connect online if you want.
Figure out what works for you.
For me, blogging often works out better than going to events. Now I know that, it’s easier for me to say, “No, I’m planning to stay home.”
Tip 2: Give people reasons to talk to you.
Most people find it hard to start a conversation, too. Do them a favour and give them excuses to talk to you.
An interesting hat makes you easy to find in a crowd. Accessories with character can draw remarks. Keywords on your nametag lead to conversation.
My favourite? Giving a presentation. Talking to a hundred people is easier than talking to two. You can rehearse, and you reach more people.
See someone who looks even more uncomfortable than you? Reach out and start the conversation. You’re surrounded by reasons to talk.
Tip 3: Change your perspective.
It’s not about selling yourself. It’s not about marketing your personal brand. It’s not about figuring out what other people can do for you.
Focus on what can help other people be happier and more successful. Ask questions. Explore.
Focusing the spotlight to the other person means less anxiety. It’s easy to get to know people when you’re focused on them, not you.
Tip 4: Look for ways to help.
While you’re listening, think: What do you know? Who do you know? How can you help?
Have you read a book they might like? Have you talked to someone they should meet? Do you have an interesting idea that can save them time?
Even if you can’t help right away, if you remember what they need, you may be able to connect the dots later.
Tip 5: Give yourself homework.
Following up with someone is easier when you’ve promised to send them a link or introduce them to someone else who can help.
That’s why you should always carry something you can use to take notes. Why worry about forgetting, when you can write things down?
Tip 6: Make it easy to get to know you.
So you’ve met someone, learned about their interests, and followed up. How do you build the connection from there?
Even if you don’t like talking about yourself, you can make it easier for other people to get to know you.
Share your interests, skills, and goals. The more people know about what you can do, the more you can find opportunities to help them.
A website or profile is a good way to start. Link to it in your e-mail signature and put it on your business card.
A blog is even better. If you share tips, ideas, and a bit of a personal touch, people might even subscribe and get to know you over time.
They might even help you grow! =)
Tip 7: Keep growing, and your network will grow with you.
As you develop your passions, improve your skills, and grow your network, you’ll be able to create more value—and more, and more, and more.
The more you understand your passions, the easier it is to communicate.
The more you improve your skills, the more you can help others.
The more people you know, the more introductions and connections you can make.
If you share what you’re learning with people, your network can grow along with you.
Then you won’t have to fake being an extrovert or drain yourself of energy–people and opportunities will flow to you.
Which of these tips would you like to focus on, practice, and learn more about? How can I help you explore your networking potential?
Paragraphs as short as these still feel staccato. I wonder how to be concise and yet conversational… Should I relax this constraint? =)
One of my mentees asked: in terms of public web presence, should you have a website, a blog, both of the above, or one site that serves both purposes?
These are some things I’ve learned after eight years of having a public web presence:
Have one site. It’s less confusing and it makes it easier for people to get to know you. Work-life separation or anonymous blogging may sound appealing. If that’s what it takes for you to get started, go for it (knowing that anonymity is very hard to keep). But it’s easier to have one persona and one site.
I find that it’s too much work to keep track of multiple personas and multiple sites. My internal/external split is hard enough for me to remember to update. ;)
Yes, there are lots of wildly popular niche bloggers with tightly-focused sites and tens of thousands of subscribers. You’re not there yet. When you get to the point of having tons of great material you can share, you can syndicate or revise things for a separate focused blog or site.
Get your own domain name. It means never having to change URLs or e-mail addresses again, and you don’t have to rely on a third-party blog/web host to stay free or to be in business.
If your name is hard to spell (like mine is), get another domain name and point it to the same content, configuring your web server so that search engines don’t punish you for duplicate sites. For example, I use sachachua.com , but livinganawesomelife.com is easier for people to remember.
It doesn’t matter if your domain name goes to your blog or to an overview. I prefer that sachachua.com shows people my blog because I have many frequent visitors, so it’s easier to go directly to what people are interested in. Fresh content is good. Other people start with an overview that links to their blog. Either way works.
Try starting with a blog or microblog. Set up your site so that you think about updating it. Yes, it’s easy to just put up an “About Me” page. Static pages are useful. But static pages tend to stay static. Start a blog and use it as a staging area where you can write about what you’re thinking. Set up your blog editor so that you can publish to your blog easily. Add blogging to your task list as a recurring task. Use it to cc: world. As you write, you’ll find things that you’ll want to “promote” to regular pages on your website. Treat your blog as your working area, and then use that to think about and create your static content.
Don’t worry about getting started. Just start. You’ll tweak your web presence over time as you find inspiration and you figure out what fits. Get something out there. It’s easy to revise something that exists than to stare at a blank page.
Thanks to Brian O’Donovan for the question!
Interests can be rabbit-holes of awesome. There’s no telling how deep they run.
One of the things I love about exploring interests is getting inspired by people who are passionate about them. Book-binding, for example—there are people who are very geeky about book-binding. Same goes for photography, sewing, gardening, and all sorts of other good things. That’s what’s great about the Internet. It’s easy to find people passionate about an interest, no matter how niche it is.