My mother is one of the most sociable people you will ever meet. She makes the people around her laugh, at any event she attends. People remember her. They remember things she told them in conversations, like where she’s traveling to next, or details about an item she was thinking of purchasing. Growing up, I was very introverted. Maybe it was because I just couldn’t compete her outgoing nature. But as an adult, I’ve taught myself to be personable and yes, even memorable in my social interactions. But truth be told, despite my weekly podcast and periodic You Tube videos and Instagram postings…I’m still very content to keep to myself.
I’ve come to realize however, that pretty much everyone considers themselves an introvert. Just about anyone you ask, will tell you that are not comfortable in social situations…despite them appearing to enjoy themselves in social settings. It is likely that they, like me, understand the importance of networking and connecting to actual living human beings, and they are willing to put in the work necessary to build connections that may be profitable in some way down the line.
Realize that the people you are talking to may not be any more comfortable than you are socially. They just know how to mask it a bit better. Or maybe they allow themselves to get lost in the moment when the conversation gets interesting. Like you, they’d rather be home reading a good book, but for this moment, their focus is 100% on the conversation they are in right now.
Understand that you don’t have to make more than 2 or 3 connections at any given social event. You don’t need to work the room. One deep conversation tonight, may lead to a dozen future gigs from that person in the coming year. So be content if you only talk to just a few people in the course of the evening.
Create an opportunity for someone to start a conversation with you by being interesting in your mannerisms or your appearance. When this is done in a deliberate manner, it is sometimes referred to as Peacocking. The philosophy there is that you want to have the biggest, most colorful feathers in the room and people will naturally be drawn to your uniqueness and your confidence to stand out. I have a Beyonce t-shirt that I love. She’s hardly wearing anything and she’s posed v-e-r-y provocatively. If she were a random model, the shirt would be obscene. But it’s Beyonce, so anything goes. When people first see the shirt their expression screams, “Is he actually wearing a half naked woman on his shirt?” I will look down at the shirt my shirt, and then back at that person and say, “Don’t you just love Beyonce?” And all is good from that point on and best of all, we are now in a conversation about Beyonce. We’ve skipped all awkward, “Who are you” and “What do you do” chit chat and we’ve moved into a discussion about something interesting.
And that brings us to another point -if you get an opportunity to start a conversation, just jump right in. Let’s say you’re on line to get a drink at a networking event and you make eye contact and see an opportunity to start talking to someone. Instead of starting with an interrogation of that person, consider just staring right in the middle of a real conversation. Make eye contact, then say, “Am I the only one hoping they have those little cheeseburgers as part of the hors d’oeuvres?” You might think the person will respond, “Um, do I know you?” But they won’t. They’ll answer the question you asked and you’ll be in a conversation with them. After a bit of back and forth, you can gradually get to the the “Who are you” and “What do you do” small talk.
If you try out any of these techniques, let me know how it goes!