Scenario: you get an email inviting you to attend xyz event. You won’t know anyone there but you know you should go because:
1. Interesting things will happen that you’re actually interested in;
2. It’s a great way to meet like-minded people;
3. Opportunities are still built on a foundation of who you know and who knows you, so you got to play the game to be in the game;
4. It’s summer season for TV in the US and there’s nothing else to do on a Thursday night.
If, like me, your initial reaction is a feeling of immense dread, heart palpitations, and imagined scenarios of accidentally spraying a VIP with food when you speak, then I have some tips for you that I’ve learned along the way after pulling off the greatest con of all time*.
I have fooled others into thinking I am an extrovert.
Life of the party. Witty small talker. Fantastic dancer (maybe not).
Truth is, I am an introvert. I prefer small groups, one-on-one interactions, and then being able to unwind with a book and a glass of wine afterwards. I just practiced being an extrovert.
The beginning of my transformation began with a Roman summer in 2014. Jet lagged, but still fresh faced, I was at the beginning of a six-month internship. It was only as I stood lost at the front of the work cafeteria that I realised it had been a long time since I was the new kid on the playground. I had to re-learn how to make friends, and fast, because gelato for one is just sad.
As such I present to you the playbook.
The Playbook Vol. II : Suit up. Win friends. Be awesome**.
1. Fake it til you make it!
That’s not to say you should lie about yourself and introduce yourself as Thor and tell everyone about the time that you saved the world. As Neha’s mum says “If you tell the truth you don’t have to have a good memory”. You might forget which world it was that you saved.
However, you can pump yourself up and imagine you are Thor, and carry yourself like Thor. Imagine his sense of confidence, and mimic it. Just don’t try to speak like Thor.
2. Arrive on time
This tip is purely tactics. Think about it, it’s an introvert’s worst nightmare to walk into a crowded room and have people look at you and then turn back to their groups. All the while you’re left hovering near the entrance unsure as to where/how to proceed.
However, if you go by the informal observational statistics that nobody arrives on time, you therefore have better odds of controlling the scenario. If you’re there first then the next person to arrive has to talk to you. Otherwise they look like a jerk, and so would you if you don’t talk to them. This is not exactly a hostage scenario, but it kind of is. The less people there are in a room, the more likely they will have to talk to you. Just don’t forget that you have to talk to them too.
End result, by the time the room is at capacity, bumping with awkward introductions, you’ve already made alliances and have someone/group to talk too, with the smug realisation that you’re not the awkward person who just walked into the room. Though you should be nice and invite them into your conversation.
3. Make medium talk
Small talk is awkward, and as the name implies, small. It often fails to give insight into a person, and bonds are more tenuous. The idea behind medium talk is that it enables a more insightful level of conversation, and can leave a greater feeling of satisfaction of having engaged in a meaningful way with another person. This article explains it with a bit more depth.
The advantage of using a medium talk approach at networking events is that it can help to get conversations flowing, and leave a greater impression on the other party.
So next time, instead of flailing for topics after the typical “what do you do?” question, try asking others like “what brought you here tonight?”, or perhaps “What’s something you like that most people don’t?”.
For better ideas have a trawl through this Reddit post “What kind of questions would you ask to make medium talk, instead of small talk?”, and post your suggestions in the comments below!
4. Know who you are
As we’ve established, you’re not Thor. Though you might pretend to have the confidence of Thor. Just superimpose that sense of confidence onto your own persona.
To do that, you need to work out who exactly you are, and what it is that you are known for. It’s the 101 of reality TV, bring your own brand (BYOB).
Example: Amanda Taylor, witty blogger by day, gelato aficionado by night (seriously guys, if the gelato is icy in texture, it’s ice-cream. NOT GELATO).
5. Power pose
This one is my favourite. Watch this youtube video on power posing by social psychologist Amy Cuddy. The theory presented is that “standing in a posture of confidence, even when we don’t feel confident — can affect testosterone and cortisol levels in the brain, and might even have an impact on our chances for success”
So shake your tail feathers out, get your Wonder Woman pose on, and then go work that room like the queen/boss that you know you are.
6. Say ‘yes’ to every invitation
Because, practice makes perfect.
So the next time you’re standing at the precipice, wondering if you dare say yes to a networking event, or anything else that scares you, I hope these tips will help to provide you with a shot of courage to say yes and to take that leap.
As the saying goes, you’ll never, ever know if you never, ever go.
I’d also love to hear your tips for networking, or medium talk suggestions below.
*Not all claims are based on fact.
**Not endorsed by Barney Stinson