How To Become More Socially Confident
At this point, many of you may be saying “I am too shy to talk to people I don’t know” or that you have no talent for selling or promoting anything.
The fact is, you can learn these skills just as you learned the skills that brought you to this point in the business world. Nearly one in two Americans claims to be shy, according to Psychology Today.
Even those people who appear to be self-confident and assured may actually consider themselves shy. Research has shown that only a small percentage of people show that they are uncomfortable, but internally they are suffering when they must enter social situations.
What this means is that the person you may meet at a networking event who seems outgoing and self-confident may actually be just as nervous as you.
They, too, may feel they are too shy to reach out to people they do not know. What they have done, however, is develop skills to push the shyness aside in order to achieve what they desire in the business world and elsewhere.
Experts say that the best way to begin overcoming shyness is to talk to everyone. Start small by saying hello each time you meet someone on the street, in a grocery store or in an elevator.
Make it a goal to do so once each day. Once that seems natural, greet two people each day, continuing to add a person until it seems second-nature.
Recognize that you have knowledge another person may want. That is the ultimate goal of networking – to make someone remember you as the go-to person for a particular need.
Many shy people find that when they are passionate about a subject, they forget their shyness and are able to talk to just about anyone about the subject. Use this technique when networking to discuss your business.
It takes practice to become proficient at social confidence. Although there are people are naturally confident, the majority of us are not and must develop skills to overcome social anxiety and shyness in order to network thoroughly.
Master the Art of First Impressions
Research indicates that you have a very small window of time, as little as 30 seconds, in which to establish a connection regarding you, your company or a product.
Although a first impression can change over time, it is difficult to change one that is negative. The brain is wired to fit things into “boxes” created during initial assessment rather than let other details contradict or call into question that initial impression. Therefore, it is critical to master the art of first impression if you want your networking to be successful.
In fact, a Princeton University psychologist conducted an experiment in which he had people look at a microsecond of video of a political candidate in 2005. The subjects predicted with 70 percent accuracy who would win the election after watching just one microsecond of tape.
There are three components to a good first impression. They include:
- Strong and positive emotion – If the emotion felt by the other person when they meet you is strong and positive, you begin with a good foundation to build on. If the impression is weak, the foundation will also be weak.
- Memorable – People are bombarded with information constantly, so if information you give them is not memorable, that first impression will be replaced in their mind with one that is.
- Accurately Reflects You – You don’t want to be something you are not, so it is important to be authentic and genuine when you first meet someone. If you are not, you run the risk of alienating someone who could be a valuable business asset.
There are several steps you can take that will improve your chances of making a good first impression. They include:
- Set an intention – determine before you arrive at an event about the type of people you want to meet and what interactions you want to have.
- Dress for success – whether we like to admit it or not, people are visual beings. They take into account the clothing other people wear, the jewelry, the watches and all other types of ornamentation when making initial judgements. For men, a watch can say a lot about them while women should choose purses and jewelry carefully.
- Body language matters – everything from posture to where your hands are when you are speaking to someone is critical. Crossed arms across the chest indicate someone who is closed off to the conversation while slumped shoulders may indicate someone who has little self-confidence.
- Acknowledge a bad day – if you are having a bad day, simply avoid networking events. If you are suffering from a headache or are just in a bad mood, that will come across to others at the event. If it is an event you are required to attend, watch funny YouTube videos before you go or find a place to relax and unwind to put you into a better mood.
- Be interesting – if you are interesting, people will want to talk to you. You don’t have to be the life of the party, but simply engage others in conversation, even if it is about the weather or the score of the game the night before. The more you engage others, the more likely they will be to get a good first impression.
How to Craft the Perfect Pitch
Just like with a first impression, you have very little time to pitch your business, product or service.
You may only have a few seconds with someone before you are interrupted at a business function or you may run into someone at the grocery store who only has a few minutes to talk, but asks about your business. The best way to handle these situations is to develop what is known as an “elevator pitch.”
A brief, persuasive speech used to spark interest in your organization is often called an elevator pitch because it should only be about 20 to 30 seconds, or about the time spent in a short elevator ride.
An elevator pitch can be used in almost any situation where you need to express an idea in a short amount of time. It can be used to explain your business to potential clients or it could be used to pitch an idea to your manager.
Creating an elevator pitch is not difficult. The first step is to identify what you want potential clients to know, whether it is about a new product or simply explains what your company does.
The best way to start is by mentioning the problems you solve as this often stimulates interest. Come up with an opening that excites you or brings a smile to your face.
For example, at a recent business event, the owner of an alarm company introduced herself by saying “My business is alarming.” This brought a laugh from others in the room and made her speech more memorable.
Be sure to include your unique selling proposition by identifying what makes your business different than your competitors.
End with a question so that the other person must respond. The question should not be a yes or no answer and it shouldn’t be a hard sell.
If you are in the training business, it could be “How does your company handle training?” The question should be thought-provoking so that if the person cannot answer immediately, it will leave them thinking about the question when you part ways.
How to Give Good Referrals
A referral is when you connect one person to another person that you know. In the business world, this means connecting clients or peers to others within your network who have skills your client or peer is looking for. For example, if you are an electrician and your client needs a plumber, you would refer the client to a plumber within your network of connections.
Before referring someone, however, there are some suggestions to be sure your client gets the service they want and your network partner gets a new customer from that referral.
- Listen for needs from the people you meet. When you meet someone who expresses a need, tell her you know a person whose business can provide the product or service she’s looking for. Tell her about your business experience, if any, with that person.
- Tell her you know someone who can provide that service. Give her the business card of the person you’re referring, and ask for hers.
- Ask whether it is okay for the person or business you are referring to call. This helps determine how hot the referral is. If she says yes, fill out a referral slip (or use the back of your card) and give it to the person you referred.
- Avoid giving bad referrals, such as:
- News about a meeting for business owners, a chamber mixer, or any other business meeting. This is an announcement, and potentially good information to have, but not a referral.
- Providing someone with a better source for obtaining products. Again, this is good information for someone, but not a business referral.
- Giving the same referral to three different people in the same profession.
- Referring someone to a prospect without telling the prospect that you have done so.
- Giving someone a referral but telling him or her not to use your name with the prospect.
How to Follow Up
After a networking event, it can be overwhelming when you look at the handful of business cards and try to remember exactly who was who that you talked to.
The key is to make a game plan as soon as you can so that you can act on the collaborations you felt could happen after the event.
First, organize all the business cards into two piles.
One is a pile of cards for people you plan to reach out to in the next few days. These will be considered high priority contacts. The others go in a pile that you don’t feel you can reach out to now, but will need to at a later date. Make notes on the back of the card to help you remember what you talked about and why you thought you could help them.
Do not send emails immediately after the event, especially if it is a conference where attendees may have been away from the office for a few days.
They may be overwhelmed with returning to work which could mean your email gets lost in the full inbox they are facing.
When you do send an email, make sure to personalize it. Include a sentence or statement about what you spoke about at the event that is specific to that person. This indicates to them that you paid attention to them when they spoke. You could mention a child’s dance recital or an upcoming vacation they talked about. The email should offer something that is useful to the contact such as a link to a helpful blog. If possible, link them to your company blog. Keep the email short and include a call-to-action.
Blogging is an excellent way to follow-up after a conference. If your company does not have a blog, you may want to start one. Offer opinions on the event or conference and connect it to something else to draw relevance.
Search engines give precedence to websites that are updated often and the best way to keep your site updated is through a blog. The key is that the blog must be well-written, with proper spelling, punctuation and grammar or the search engines may not rank it highly. If you are not proficient at writing, consider hiring a content writer to handle the task for you. If possible, add links to people you met at the conference in the blog, but do so in a natural way.
Follow-up is critical to making networking successful. In addition to these tips, it is important to avoid some common mistakes that people make when they are networking.