More Than WE Know

Women Entrepreneurs sharing Information, Inspiration and Support

Six Tips to Successful Networking for Shy Entrepreneurs

Posted by Liz Fuller on August 14, 2007

shy-girl.jpg I would say that about half of you who read my series this week on networking are still thinking – who me? network? no way! I’m too shy!

How do I know this? Am I psychic? No, I just happen to know that approximately 50% of all Americans surveyed will say that they are shy. This number has actually grown in recent years from approximately 40%. Some researchers attribute this increase in shyness to the rise in technology and the internet. In other words, if you’re reading this, you probably feel more comfortable in front of a computer than in the middle of a group of strangers.

The only problem with that of course is that you’re missing out on the fantastic power of networking to grow your business and expose you to new ideas and opportunities.

As I discussed in my recent post on social networking online, I realize it is possible to network while on your computer. However, most of the people I talked to recommended augmenting online networking with face to face meetings.

So if you feel that your shyness is keeping you from opportunities that your less-shy competitors are having, there are several approaches you can take depending on the unique way your shyness manifests itself.

For example:

1) If you are shy when making small-talk but are fine when you have a designated role, such as team leader or timekeeper, etc.:

  • Arrive early and volunteer to help; take on the role of official greeter or registrar. This gives you a sense of purpose and authority; you need to speak to people and ensure they have a name-tag and know where to find the bathrooms. This breaks the ice and makes it easier to initiate conversations.
  • Designate yourself the head of the table in your own mind. Sit down at an empty table or a table with one person. Introduce yourself. When the next person arrives, introduce that person to the person already sitting there and yourself. And so on. People will naturally include you in their conversations since you’ve broken the ice and they also see you as the “leader” at the table.
  • Volunteer to be on a committee. It gives purpose to your small talk and makes it easier to think of things to say. Plus people will get to see a demonstration of the great skills you bring to the activity and will feel more confident recommending you.

2) If you are uncomfortable with small talk because you don’t know what is expected:

  • Come prepared. Before the event think of three open-ended questions you could ask other people that would get a conversation going. Many people feel pressured in social situations because they think they have to be entertaining. In reality, people are starved for a good audience. If you are too shy to talk but are able to listen well, you can be a popular companion.
  • Talk about someone or something other than yourself. Shyness has a lot to do with self-consciousness. Some people who can’t possibly talk about themselves, find words flowing fluently when they talk about a subject they are passionate about.

3) If you are shy when speaking off the cuff but are in your element when delivering a rehearsed speech:

  • Offer to be a guest speaker or the event host; many organizations are in need of speakers. It’s ironic that a lot of people who don’t think of themselves as shy, are uncomfortable speaking in public. So, if you are one of the few who enjoys public speaking – make the most of it – and others will want to network with you!

The point in all of this is to set small goals. When you attend an event, decide ahead of time that you are going to initiate one conversation, pay one compliment, and learn one person’s name. Then, when you do, allow yourself to feel a sense of accomplishment! You’re one step closer to entrepreneurial success!

Do you have a tip for overcoming shyness? Or a story in which you took a networking risk? I’d love to hear it. Add your comment below!

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2 Responses to “Six Tips to Successful Networking for Shy Entrepreneurs”

  1. Stephen said

    I am a shy networker. Good reference for me. Ironic that I am networking tonight at an event, and I visited your site. Great information.

  2. […] so on.  Any of you who related to my earlier  post on networking for the shy entrepreneur can probably understand the concept of hearing messages in our heads which tell us to sit down […]

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