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AngelicaRJackson
06-23-2009, 08:17 PM
I've posted another question about recommendations for conferences, but I need some help with overcoming shyness to get the most out of networking at them. I do have a lot of social anxiety, but once I'm in a conversation with someone I'm fine (I think I come across as fairly intelligent, funny, inoffensive smelling).

It's that initial hurdle of starting a conversation that gets me. Mostly I've approached people if I see we've attended some of the same workshops, or randomly pick a lunch table to sit at (feels like high school all over again). Had some nice conversations, but it doesn't go any further than that, even if we exchange cards.

Any tips, other than get over it?

P.S. I'm trying to use AW as another tool to help me become more active in the writing community, so I'm making an effort not to lurk so much here

Kitty Pryde
06-23-2009, 08:25 PM
I tend to avoid talking to strangers, but in my last job I had to talk with loads of people all day long. My boss suggested I go out into the workplace, not as myself, but playing a role, like an actor. I play the role of someone who's just as nice and charming competent as I am, but who enjoys initiating contact and meeting strangers and talking to them. I told myself I had to play this role because I'd gotten a job that demanded it. I may not be able to be outgoing, but I can play an outgoing person in real life. It sounds sort of cheesy, but it totally works for me.

Linda Adams
06-24-2009, 02:07 AM
Well, first, networking ranks up their with public speaking. Most people don't like to do it and don't find it easy to do.

But some ideas that will help:

Break yourself into it by just smiling and saying hi to perfect strangers. If there's a guard at the gate at work, say hi. How about the grocery store checker? Or a sales clerk. Even someone juggling food in the elevator is an opportunity to check with them and see if they someone to push the elevator button. Then work your way up to adding something else to the conversation like commenting on the great price of something, the rainstorm that just erupted outside, etc.

Don't talk shop. That sounds like an odd one, but you'd be surprised how freeing it is. Not only that, if they bring a subject up (i.e., "What are you writing?"), then you know they're interested. Better still, if you come without any expections and are just friendly and pleasant to be around, people will always remember you. I've done the agent pitch room for my conference for four or five years. All the agents who regularly attend remember me. Conversations range from traffic in DC, weather, that it's time for their break, that their person didn't show up, cookies, soda, grandmother stories, and whatever else might pop up. Not shop. And I usually get asked what I'm working on, so I get an opportunity to try my pitch.

Try Toastmasters also. Nothing like giving speeches to an audience to help work your way into networking. There are clubs around the world, so you shouldn't have trouble finding one that suits you.

AngelicaRJackson
06-24-2009, 02:20 AM
The "playing a role" served me well back when I worked retail, but I'm out of practice. In fact, I spend entirely too much time with just me and my computer. Even my volunteer work is socializing cats, who appreciate what I have to say but don't offer much in conversation themselves. It probably wouldn't be hard to slip back into a role if I thought of it that way, though.

And it's funny, I was a professional storyteller for years, taught classes and gave docent presentations, gave zoo tours to large and small groups, and also served on the board for our local camera club. These are obviously public speaking gigs and didn't faze me one bit. It's the one on one that gets me, but that might help if I don't feel so much pressure to dazzle people with a fantastic first impression, and just be comfortable and approachable.

BigWords
06-24-2009, 02:42 AM
Consider the act of meeting people, especially those who are complete strangers, a kind of challenge. You have to be prepared for the fact that there are some individuals who won't like you, and you have to push past that.

Instill confidence by having a firm handshake, smiling - and remember to nod at the appropriate points in any conversation. Use body-language signals that mirror whoever you are talking to, and pay attention to what they are saying (I have been known to 'zone out' during a conversation, only to be asked a question).

If you smoke, then asking for a light can help break the ice.

I just thought of this: If you can do karaoke (doesn't matter if you can sing or not), then you can do anything. The first time you make a complete idiot in front of a room full of strangers can be a strangely liberating experience.

Hope you can work through this. Best of luck.

AngelicaRJackson
06-25-2009, 01:52 AM
"I just thought of this: If you can do karaoke (doesn't matter if you can sing or not), then you can do anything. The first time you make a complete idiot in front of a room full of strangers can be a strangely liberating experience."

*shudder*Okay, you've hit on an even worse fear for me---singing in public. And yet I have done the making a complete idiot in front of a roomful of strangers thing with my storytelling. I was really good at sound effects and funny voices.

But, luckily, I've never seen a singing event be mandatory at a conference. Maybe that's how to make myself less nervous, I can think, "Well, at least I'm not singing. Greeting a stranger should be easy-peasy."

Thanks for the help, all.

Robin Bayne
06-25-2009, 02:37 AM
Lots of good tips here!

When I first noticed I was enjoying networking instead of dreading it, I realized it was because I felt and acted like I belonged. And that made all the difference in the world.

ashlilewis
06-29-2009, 05:35 AM
I'm hopelessly shy with strangers, but I found if I told myself that at any given event I had to meet/talk to ten people, it helped. I would just tackle the introductions much like I would any other chore assigned to me - and usually by number three or four I enjoyed the game and actually made connections.
---
Ashli
writer of various
organizer of Instock Self Publishing Conference www.instockconference.com

Dale Emery
06-29-2009, 07:05 AM
I'm in a conversation with someone I'm fine (I think I come across as fairly intelligent, funny, inoffensive smelling).

Think of a time when you had one of those conversations. What got the conversation started? Did the other person start it? What do you think it was about you that invited them to talk to you? Did you start the conversation? What did you say first? What led you to say that?

Sometimes I can start an interesting conversation by noting something interesting about the person's clothing or accessories, then commenting on that, or maybe asking a question. When there's something interesting like that, it often reflects something of the person's personality or interests or history. And when that's true, it's usually something they want to feature about themselves, so they're delighted for an opportunity to talk about it.

Dale

blacbird
06-29-2009, 09:47 AM
My experience in attending writers' conventions, of which I've done three major ones (Santa Barbara, Pacific Northwest and Writers at Work in Salt Lake City), a total of seven or eight times, is that I find approaching agents an activity akin to panhandling. Not to mention that you need a major caliber flashy weapon to get the sycophants away from most of them.

So, no, I ain't no good at it.

Some years back I scored a big win (and a bit of money) in a contest at one of these things, and thought maybe that would give me some kind of an "in" with some of the agents and editors to be talked to. Big Dumb Silly Me. Not one of them gave a schidt. Not one. They were all much more interested in the sycophants.

I stopped going to these things seven or eight years ago. Waste of time and money.

caw

Ruv Draba
06-29-2009, 11:07 AM
My networking experience is in consulting and science more than fiction-writing, but here it is...

Don't go to a conference or convention to sell anything, except in designated selling-places. People aren't going to a conference to buy from you except in those places. Outside of those places there are better things to do there. If you want to sell, use appropriate channels (in fiction, write queries).
Do go to meet interesting people, discover interesting things and polish your craft.
Do go to say hello to strangers, ask questions and participate in events.
Do find interest in new things.
Do compliment people on Good Things -- even if you have nothing else to say.
Do be willing to volunteer information -- so think about what information you want to volunteer. Is it what you write, what you've written, who you sell to?
Do go to have fun.
Do relax. You're not on trial and most people you meet will hardly remember you.Find it hard to start a conversation? Try not to be Self-conscious. Think about Other and Environment too. Try complimenting something notable. Try asking a question. Be prepared to volunteer something about Self. E.g.

"Do you know where I could get a bite? I'm famished."
"When does the talk start?"
"Are you familiar with this speaker?"
"Nice dress. Are you in the business?"
"Ow! My feet are tired. I've been on them all day. How are you enjoying the convention?"
"Didn't I see you at event X? How did you find it?"

Personally, I don't go to conferences just to network. I go with specific questions in mind. Things I'd like to find out. Sometimes I go with the intention of meeting specific people. While I can have fun with strangers I won't normally go unless there's a Point, but that said once I know what I want, I'm also open to learning other things too.

If you have questions in mind then it's easy to remember what you're doing there. If the person you're talking to can't answer those questions then you can always ask other ones. If you really have nothing to talk about, you can just thank them for their company and go someplace else. :)

AngelicaRJackson
06-29-2009, 05:54 PM
Wow, a couple more helpful posts popped up here. I might have a chance to apply them in a few weeks, and I'm looking at some other conferences this fall. I feel like I have a better focus and some tools to help me get more out of the conference experience.

dgiharris
06-29-2009, 10:12 PM
I tend to avoid talking to strangers, but in my last job I had to talk with loads of people all day long. My boss suggested I go out into the workplace, not as myself, but playing a role, like an actor. I play the role of someone who's just as nice and charming competent as I am, but who enjoys initiating contact and meeting strangers and talking to them. I told myself I had to play this role because I'd gotten a job that demanded it. I may not be able to be outgoing, but I can play an outgoing person in real life. It sounds sort of cheesy, but it totally works for me.

No, not cheesy at all. I believe that each of us are really a compilation of different people, in certain situations we will 'change' into whatever person is most appropriate (i.e. you are a certain type of yourself at work vs. a certain type of yourself with your friends vs. a certain type of yourself with your significant other etc. etc.) So you just develop a certain 'type' of yourself for dealing with people in public.


Break yourself into it by just smiling and saying hi to perfect strangers. If there's a guard at the gate at work, say hi. How about the grocery store checker? Or a sales clerk. Even someone juggling food in the elevator is an opportunity to check with them and see if they someone to push the elevator button. Then work your way up to adding something else to the conversation like commenting on the great price of something, the rainstorm that just erupted outside, etc.

Don't talk shop. That sounds like an odd one, but you'd be surprised how freeing it is. Not only that, if they bring a subject up (i.e., "What are you writing?"), then you know they're interested. Better still, if you come without any expections and are just friendly and pleasant to be around, people will always remember you.

Try Toastmasters also. Nothing like giving speeches to an audience to help work your way into networking. There are clubs around the world, so you shouldn't have trouble finding one that suits you.

Lots of good stuff (bolding mine). Some of this is cultural. I'm southern raised, and in the South, you are friendly, you say hi to everyone, you say goodmorning, etc.

You'd be amazed how well people respond to a handshake, a smile, and a 'hello how are you' that seems sincere. You would not believe how many walls i've broken down by just being friendly, smiling, looking people in the eyes, showing respect. THere is a certain 'energy' to that behavior and that energy makes people warm to you.

Here is the challenge for today. WHen you are out and about in your day, strike up a random conversation with a complete stranger.

For instance, i'm standing in line at Walmart and I'm putting together this idea I have for parents. I notice a woman standing behind me and I can tell she is a mom. Someone's kid is screaming in the background. I turn to her and say, "You know, it's just not Walmart without some kid lying on the ground screaming his head off for a toy."

She laughs and says something to the effect of yeah. Then I ask her if she has kids, she says yes, then I ask her about them and she is only to happy to tell me, then I ask her advice about some of the stuff i'm putting together for parents (a product) and she is only to happy to give it.

In the whole exchange, I'm warm, friendly, and am making the conversation ALL ABOUT HER. Now, I'm a big 5'11 tall black guy who managed to break the ice with an older white soccer mom. Don't think demographics get much different than that, but I had no problems.

Friendliness, sincerity, confidence, eye contact, and smiles pretty much break down all cultural barriers. This is something you must practice, because people are like animals. They can 'sense' fear, hidden agendas, and insincerity. So just practice being friendly and sincere.

As a writer, i'm always sincere in getting to know people because people are so interesting and great fodder for characters and phrases.

Anyways, you got some great advice above. The only thing I have to say is practice, practice everyday. Every single time you are in line, say hi to someone and strike up a conversation just as practice. Eventually, it will become second nature

Mel...

Dale Emery
06-29-2009, 10:24 PM
"Nice dress. Are you in the business?"

With this one, you'll first want to make sure that the context unambiguously establishes which business you're referring to. ;-)

Dale

mario_c
06-29-2009, 10:41 PM
One thing I like about networking is finding other people who do what I do. I don't find other writers in my dreary New England burg, so I have to go where the others are. Also, New Englanders are as stuffy and unfriendly as you've heard they are - I moved here from NY state in the 90s, and I feel like I'm still an outsider. But that's another topic.

We all know how to put out those introductory sentences - about the event we're attending, our work or service we're selling, kids (if you have those) or sports (if you fathom it). Maintaining that level of interest is difficult, especially in a mixer when you realize you've got lots of other people to talk with and you have to politely move on to the next character.

Of course, maybe I'm a boring guy. That could be the issue as well.

blacbird
06-29-2009, 11:58 PM
We all know how to put out those introductory sentences

No we don't.

caw

mario_c
06-30-2009, 04:32 AM
No we don't.

caw
Well, refer to Ruv Draba's and Linda Adams' posts. Oh, and there's this (http://dating.personals.yahoo.com/singles/datingtips/31/great-questions-for-sparking-online-conversations) for what it's worth. (Yes, obviously I have other motives for sharpening my networking skills...)
Some things I try which basically elicit the response "WTF are you talking to me, pal?" but it's a start.