Jason and I will be heading to Detroit soon to deliver the opening keynote at the American Society of Employers 14th Annual HR Conference. We will be delivering our Social Gravity keynote, which is about relationships and networks of relationships and has been our most highly requested message for the past several years. There will probably be some dancing. As someone who frequently speaks about, and has co-authored a book about relationships, it is sometimes assumed that I am a bubbly, chatty, social-butterfly who loves to “work the room.”
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Meeting people is hard for me. Its not that I do not want to meet you, I do. I just don’t know what to say, and I know this makes no sense to the many who do it well and easily on a regular basis. I think that those informal social interactions are for me similar to what public speaking is like for “normal people.”
Most people are terrified of public speaking and it continues to show up on most lists of our greatest fears. I do not hate the idea of getting up in front of a group of people to talk, in fact I have chosen it as my profession. I love it.
When I talk to people who are terrified of public speaking, much of their fear is about “going blank” once they are up in front of people. They have things to say, but once they are on stage it all disappears, which is how I feel in those unstructured, informal conversations. I could probably go on stage, unscripted, and talk for several hours about the stuff I am passionate about, but when you and I happen to be sharing an elevator, I am the one “going blank.”
Networking events may be a ton of fun for you, but they are not for me, they are too loud, too busy, and too cliquey. But I can still rock the social capital game, I have still built a large, diverse, noisy and far-reaching network of relationships.
A few things that have worked for me:
- Be Prepared: Unexpected interactions (like when you get into the elevator with me) were always some of the trickiest for me, until a friend shared his go-to great questions. Where are you from? What do you do for fun? Simple, yes, but both are consistently good conversation starters.
- Social Media: I have not found anything that compares to the early days of Twitter, but social media tools, used with a bit of intention, are still good for starting and caring for relationships. Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook all still have value for finding people, starting new relationships, and staying in touch with folks. I also schedule the occasional Skype Day, setting aside a day to have 20-30 minute conversations on Skype with people who want to get to know me or catch up.
- Go 1:1: I skirt around the bigger networking events to the best of my ability, but I still want to get connected to folks at the conferences I attend, so I try to make time to grab breakfast, coffee, or maybe a short walk with some people I want to know or catch up with. 1:1 is incredibly different than a networking event for me, so it is well worth the time.
What has worked well for you?
A litte bonues reading: