Networking Event? Here's How to Use Your Extrovert Powers for Good
Learning how to get your name and your business out into the world, make new contacts, and build your network -- these are vital skills, right? And it's not always easy. After all, networking events can be stressful, awkward, and full of people who would rather be ANYWHERE else.
People tend to assume extroverts are good at this stuff.
No one needs to remind US to speak up! We’re natural networkers! After all, we love meeting new people and striking up conversations with strangers! We bring the party!
Except, as a voice/communication coach - and an extrovert myself - I know through oh-so-awkward personal experience that we extroverts are not always rock stars at making real connections. Just being able to comfortably SAY WORDS to a stranger does not necessarily lead to successful communication.
Extroverts can bulldoze through a conversation and not really notice or respond to a single thing the other person is saying. We can even - unconsciously and sometimes with the noblest of intentions - become the party spotlight hog and turn off an entire room.
Have you ever heard the old theater cliche of “There are no small parts, only small actors”? A friend of mine had his own sarcastic version: “There are no small parts, only actors who don’t know how to steal focus.” Extroverts can be expert focus stealers. And nobody likes a focus stealer. (Remember all those exclamation points from that third paragraph? That’s what it can feel like talking to an extrovert who is a little too . . . ON.)
The reality is that ALL of us - whether we are introverted, extroverted, and somewhere in between - have communication habits we fall into both when we feel comfortable, and when we feel uncomfortable. Patsy Rodenburg has a really useful system for defining these different levels of energy and focus in conversation - the Three Circles.
Typically, under a certain amount of social stress or nerves - hello networking events! - introverts tend to retreat into themselves (what Patsy calls “First Circle”) and extroverts tend to try harder, get louder, and claim more attention (or “Third Circle”). Neither of these circles are conducive to really connecting with your audience, because in neither circle are you truly taking the other person in and responding in the moment. Both First Circle and Third Circle are, in a sense, a bit selfish and all about you.
But - BUT - you can use your confidence and conversational powers for good and not evil! We don’t have to run roughshod over the quiet ones. Your communication habits don’t need to control you. With some conscious practice, a bit of extra reflection, and a big dose of listening, we can create connections that count and help others do the same - and find Patsy’s “Second Circle”, a level of conversational energy that both gives and receives, is present and engaging, and gives you the most access to your people skills and emotional intelligence.
Join me, fellow Extroverts, in embracing Kinder, Gentler (and dare I say Quieter) Second Circle Extroversion!
- Check in with yourself often - are you turning it up to 11 and taking over a conversation? Relax and consciously turn the spotlight on someone else. Ask questions. Exercise your curiosity, and check the instinct to match every story you hear with a similar one of your own.
- Practice the art of giving the conversation - and your conversation partner - some breathing room. Again - nerves or habit can cause extroverts to just KEEP TALKING to fill any perceived awkward silences - and if you are speaking with someone who takes more time to compose a response, this often means they get cut off. Part of listening is holding space and paying attention to cues that the other person has something to add, even if they don’t immediately jump in. And if you do find yourself interrupting - master the art of saying “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to cut you off. Please continue!”
- Keep an eye out for people who might be floating on the fringe of a group and looking left out - and invite them in. It’s as easy as smiling and saying “Hi! Come on in” and making space in a circle, and it goes a long way. And make connections for OTHER people - one of my favorite roles in a networking event is introducer (both live, and afterwards via email (EXCELLENT tips for email intros here)) - “Hey X, I was just chatting to Y about Z thing - I think you guys would enjoy talking. Can I introduce you?” It feels great to help other people connect.
And hey - introvert, extrovert, or anywhere in between, you CAN own your strengths and learn the communication skills that will help you build a strong network (and make a few friends along the way). We'd love to help! Join us and the marvelous Hillary Rea of Tell Me A Story for a very special joint webinar LIVE this Tuesday night the 24th at 7pm, and use the code TMAS for $5 off the ticket price! Tickets available here.