Tired of 2nd Place? Step Out for Business Success

“The only thing that is stopping you from where you are to where you want to go is your comfort zone.” – Dhaval Gaudier

When I was 8, I was on a swim team. I loved swimming, I enjoyed training and I even enjoyed the competition. The only thing that held me back was my introverted nature: I feared standing out in a crowd; I feared being the center of attention.

When it came time to race, I became so nervous I barely heard the starting gun—though I never jumped the gun because that meant more attention on me. I didn’t hear the crowd, or the announcers, or my coach.

And I finished 2nd. Often.

It saddened me that I rarely took first place, but looking back, it made sense: #1 got all the attention and the spotlight; #2 was soon forgotten.

That mentality continued for the next 30 years until I became an entrepreneur. Suddenly, my fear of standing out and being the center of attention battled with my desire to be a successful business owner.

It was time to step out: out of my office, out of my comfort zone, out of my fears. Sound like something you need? Here are 5 Step Out practices to implement now.

STEP OUT 1—Attend events: Seek out the events that will build your brand’s awareness and attract your ideal audience (attending targeted events eliminates the awkwardness of feeling lost or out of place). Seek out people that will help put you in contact with ideal people as well.

STEP OUT 2—Introduce yourself: present your elevator speech then ask what issues they face related to your business (attention is on them rather than you).

*HINT: You have a solution to their problem. This is an information-gathering moment and you don’t have to be loud and flashy to do it.*

STEP OUT 3—Listen: listening is one of your strengths as an introvert. Get the conversation started with relevant questions then…listen. Let them talk. Present your solution.

*HINT: people want to be heard and want someone to LISTEN. Be that person and you’ve stepped into the coveted know-like-trust realm*

STEP OUT 4—Follow-up: now you have information to nurture the relationship and build yourself as a subject matter expert. The follow-up gives you the introvert-friendly way to do that. Let your content marketing plan do the heavy work:

  • newsletters
  • blogs
  • emails
  • social media
  • new platforms like Facebook Live and Periscope

All of these can be performed anywhere on the planet—including your quiet zone. Share everywhere. Explore new platforms. Be creative and experiment.

STEP OUT 5—Seek opportunities: regardless of where you are on the introvert-extrovert scale, the greatest growth comes from reaching out. There are people and organizations that are looking for experts to fill their schedule. Be the first to respond.

  • Offer to sit on a panel discussion in your expertise
  • offer to present at an industry-related event
  • reach out to podcast hosts to become a guest
  • volunteer to speak at a school, networking event, or professional organization

Yes, this is a huge undertaking for introvert business owners, but it’s a moment in time that carries a lot of weight toward business success. Start small, but start now! Step out for that moment then build from the results.

Kristen

Introvert to Impromptu Presenter: How Do I Do It?

“The secret to life is to put yourself in the right lighting. For some it’s a Broadway spotlight, for others, a lamplit desk.” ~ Susan Cain

What’s it take to run a successful business?

For me, as an introvert, I needed to develop social confidence. That meant attending public events. Lots of them. In my first 3 years of business, I attended 3 to 5 networking events, within a 150 mile radius, per week. When my confidence wanes, or when I get too comfortable, I add more to my agenda.

This week I attended my first Medici Magic Meetup sponsored by the Medici MediaSpace, a new co-working space in St. Louis. Upon entering the room, several pairs of eyes turned to greet me—always an anxiety-inducing situation for an introvert. However, I implemented my GOYA strategy for a successful event, which included the dreaded saying hi to everyone in attendance. Individually.

Next, each of the 15 attendees were offered a moment to introduce themselves. When my turn came, with heart rate and blood pressure soaring, I introduced myself as:

A content development service which attracts clients and guides them through the sales funnel, plus an introvert coach to help introverts achieve their social goals.

Next, we were briefed on Medici’s event format where the audience chooses the discussions. No longer one to let my social fears hold back opportunity, my arm fired into the air, terrifying my brain into whipping up a topic before I was called on: Content Creation: Where are you in the Sales Funnel?

Throughout the first 4 mini-presentations, I listened, participated, while putting together an on-the-spot discussion. With 20 minutes left in the 2 hour meetup, Josh Levey, a co-founder for Medici, pointed to me and said, “I want to say first that you are the most fun introvert that I ever met!” (Thank you, Josh!) I stood, anxiety returning once again, and shared a quick story about being an introvert, my 2-hour parking lot panic and my reward system of chocolate. The crowd enjoyed my story and I noticed a woman, in the back, with a bright smile directed at me. My presentation went well, I received great questions, replied with solutions, and concluded with a call to action.

The result:

  • Several attendees and I had extended conversations
  • It was suggested I do a Ted Talk about my introvert experience—an opportunity that I would never have considered <2 years ago!
  • I arranged an interview for the Missouri SourceLink
  • I’ll be an upcoming guest on the TLC Radio show
  • I provided an introduction for one of the attendees

As I was heading to leave, Theo Clark of TLC Radio, called me aside and introduced me to the woman with the bright smile: Brittany Blount, executive assistant and radio producer with TLC Radio. As a fellow introvert, she was eager to ask me, “How did you do it?”

Again, I was flattered. I shared that I still experience anxiety and it’s an ongoing process to accomplish my goals. Then she asked, “How long did it take you to get over it?”

“It’s not something you’ll be totally rid of nor will you want to,” I explained. “There is strength and joy in solitude, thriving in our own company, and working in a quiet environment.”

With pen and paper ready, Brittany was ready to catch every nugget:

  • Acknowledge and accept your introvert tendencies; that includes the anxiety in social situations. Practice at home, in front of the mirror, and if you are comfortable, in front of family members.
  • Recognize your weakness: which part of a social situation is hardest for you: convincing yourself to attend? Introducing yourself to others? Entering an existing conversation? Exiting a conversation? Once you identify that, ask yourself what it will take to move past the fear.
  • Practice & prepare; have your tagline, elevator speech, and answers to potential questions memorized. Know them so well that you can present without freezing or Filler Words.
  • Go with a goal: what do you wish to accomplish from this event? You are there for a reason, so have your goals memorized so you don’t flee when the discomfort appears.
  • Make the situation about others: start by saying hello and asking them to share what they do. Then listen. But be ready, they’ll ask you the same question.
  • Reward yourself: not before, not during. After! Have that reward waiting for you in the car or at home.
  • Relax: even with your reward and the satisfaction of reaching your goal, you’ll be exhausted. Find a quiet place. Block off noise, people, and distractions. If that’s difficult for your family to understand, let them know you need some undisturbed time alone.

Getting to where I am now isn’t easy and requires ongoing practice, refining, pushing past self-doubt and sometimes tears. What keeps me going is the desire to solve content catastrophes for my clients—making the client my priority. With time, patience, and understanding, you can do it and remain true to yourself.

To learn more about my GOYA Strategy and introvert coaching, call me at 314-856-5747 or write me at kris@kristhescribbler.com

Kristen Edens
An introvert in business

Thought Leadership: What is it and Why Do I Need it?

thaikrit at freedigitalphotos.net

Now here’s a buzzword that has many small business owners scratching their heads AND wondering how to incorporate yet another task into their role as business owner.

After a little research, I found several definitions on the phrase but settled on the two which I thought best summed it up. For a detailed, corporate-style definition, go with Denise Brosseau of Thought Leadership Lab:

Thought leaders are the informed opinion leaders and the go-to people in their field of expertise. They are trusted sources who move and inspire people with innovative ideas; turn ideas into reality, and know and show how to replicate their success.

If you want it between the eyes, with a little more hard truth (and perhaps a touch of luck), then Mashable’s guest blogger Lauren Hockenson defined it as:

Do something everyone else in your field thinks is dumb, and be right about it.

For small business owners, thought leadership is what we strive to obtain in order to:

  • build your image as an expert
  • become known, liked, trusted
  • make a difference in your industry, your connections and yourself

So how do you do this without losing our mind and gobbling up your time? You’ll find lots of information online, but it boils down to two main objectives:

Share your knowledge:

This is where your content becomes critical. While the internet and social media make it easy to share your knowledge, expertise and enthusiasm, WRITING IT is where the headaches occur.

Your connections and clients want content that educates, inspires and informs. People have problems and they want solutions now. You have the answers they seek, but must get the word out to them. It’s a vicious loop, but never fear: you already know several simple solutions to common problems in your area of expertise! That’s important information to blog about. Share it through your social media channels, send an email to your connections, build some social media posts around your answer. Find a way to tell a story around your solution. For instance, here’s one I encountered last week:

I wanted to add a banner image to my social media profiles, but didn’t know how to format them appropriately. I tinkered to the best of my limited technical knowledge, then got too frustrated and called another connection to help me. A week before, I met Don Hawkins, of Don Hawkins Photography, at a Networking Geniuses meeting. In his elevator speech, he mentioned his expertise in creating professional images for social media sites. I called him late afternoon on a Friday, told him my issues, and he had them formatted to the correct size in a matter of minutes (check out my LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter page). Once the task was completed, I asked if he encountered this a lot and his answer was yes. Don now has a great blog post—and call to action—for connections wanting a banner image!

What common issues or problems do your clients encounter? Listen. Ask. Explore. Then write. Tell those stories. Share the solutions. Then—BAM!—you become a thought leader. You may not reach the coveted national or international level of thought leader, but reaching that status among your connections and your geographic region is a great place to start—and a great sense of accomplishment.

Share your joys:

You love what you do otherwise you wouldn’t have built a business around it. Thought leadership is a way to express your enthusiasm for what you do, which in turn, attracts future clients. Let your personality show in your content, your messages, and your work and people will remember you. You’ll be the one they seek when they next encounter a problem they KNOW you can handle!

THAT is how you become a thought leader.

Do you struggle telling your story? Do you need help finding ideas and solutions to become a thought leader? Share your ideas, comments or problems below. Or, send me a note and I’ll help you get started.

Happy writing!
Kris the Scribbler

photo image courtesy of thaikrit at freedigitalphotos.net

Networking Fear? Start with GOYA!

imagerymajectic at freedigitalphotos.netNo doubt you’ve heard several practices to make networking work for you, but what isn’t addressed is what to do when you the cat has your tongue and your feet are buried in cement. We can make it our goal to attend two or more networking meetings each week, but they aren’t helpful if we can’t get moving and talking.

For years, this was my problem. My pre-networking activities consisted of staring at myself in the mirror, rehearsing my elevator speech and practicing opening lines. Then I’d get in the car and practice more while driving. I would always arrive early, because I needed time for ‘parking lot panic’. However, my pre-networking habits have diminished and I’m more comfortable with networking events (I still sometimes get the jitters, though).

It didn’t take long to realize that if I didn’t get moving and talking, I wasn’t going to reach my goals. I had to make changes and do it fast and it began with GOYA: Get off your Ass!

Here are my GOYA exercises to shake the networking jitters:

Remind yourself: you are not the only one feeling awkward or uncomfortable! Some hide it better than others, but most networking attendees have the jitters. AND, they are looking for ways to start a conversation, too.

In case you haven’t read it already, take a look at another blog I wrote on the benefits of arriving early: The Early Bird Gets the Leads.

If an early arrival isn’t possible, look for people you already know. Walk up to them, and even if they’re engaged in another conversation, it doesn’t hurt to wave and say a quick hello. Most of the time, the friend will introduce you to the new person.

Reach out to those hovering in the corner, near an exit or who are paying a little too much attention to their cell phones. These are classic ‘I’m not sure what to do next’ cues. So many times I have been that person and am building up courage to just say hello. Now I recognize the same behaviors in others and they are the first ones I approach.

Most networking meetings offer food or drinks. If you still have the jitters, stand next to the edibles because everyone comes by to check out the offerings. It’s also a common gathering place for others building up their networking courage—we can look busy and attentive while nibbling on snacks instead of looking lost and awkward standing alone in a large room. Say hello to everyone who approaches. Mention how yummy the dip or the hummus or the punch is. This is the perfect opportunity to add, “What do you do?” In a minute or so, the person will ask about you.

These GOYA exercises have helped me ease the pain of reaching out during events. How do you handle the networking jitters? What networking exercises do you have? Share them in the comments below. (Thanks to Eva from Knews.co for inspiring this topic!)

Happy writing!
Kris the Scribbler

photo credit goes to imagerymajestic at freedigitalphotos.net

The Early Birds Get the….Leads

Stuart Miles2-freedigitalphotos.netFew people like–or plan–to be late. The same goes with showing up too early for an event. There is a feeling of awkwardness with either situation, but a recent experience has changed my theory on arriving early–especially to networking events.

Since I live nearly an hour away from most business-related events, I add an extra half hour to my departure time to ensure a time buffer. This week, however, I attended an event where I was 45 minutes early! I was thrilled, but immediately wondered what I should do to pass the time. This blog is a result of the lessons learned from that time.

Calming effect: I’m an introverted business owner, but step out of my shell every time I attend an event. My time buffer includes a few meditative minutes to calm lingering jitters and rehearse my elevator speech. It’s also a good time to make sure I have everything I need in hand for a successful event, like business cards.

Locate ideal parking: Downtown driving and parking is not my forte and one of the reasons I add extra time to the commute. Arriving extra early helped me locate where others parked. I had parked on the street at a meter, but discovered a free parking lot just across the street from the event.

Arrival habits: In addition to learning where to park, this is a great opportunity to identify the correct building and entrance. As I watched from my metered parking space, several attendees all headed for the same door, but it was locked. A few had an ID tag that got them in, but those attending the meeting did not; they had to press a button to alert a building security person. Now I could approach like a pro and not get stalled.

Identify key people: The larger the meeting, the harder it is to get close to people we’d like to meet. Plus, it’s difficult to know when and if those target contacts will be in attendance. While I was waiting and watching from my car, two people I wanted to connect with showed up! I also got an idea of how early they tend to show up.

A head start on networking: No one likes an empty room at an event, but here’s the chance to change that. Arriving early means you get a great start on introducing yourself, welcoming everyone (even if you aren’t the host) and meeting those elusive key people! By the time the meeting has begun, you’ve got the hard part out of the way. Now you can enjoy the event and follow-up with your new warm leads!

Happy writing—and networking!
Kris the Scribbler

Networking Follow-Up: When is Too Soon? When is Too Late?

photo credit-uberoffices.com

Networking events have become an important relationship-building tool for many small businesses. Even if you’ve been in business for several years, it’s helpful to get out and meet new people.

There is plenty of advice for how to get the best results from networking events, but you rarely hear details about ‘follow-up after the event’. When is a good time to follow-up? What method should be used?

I attended a Yellow-Tie networking event November 11, 2014, sponsored by Gil Wagner of Gil Wagner Connections, LLC. In addition to my normal goal of meeting new people and reaching out to businesses, I interviewed several attendees to get their thoughts on networking follow-up. My question: What do you believe is the ideal time to follow-up after a networking event? Which method do you prefer to use—and receive?

Bart Elfrink of Lifeleadership.com says within two days is best. He suggests business people attend events with the goal of creating interest in their business but then advises to not be pushy. “If you love what you do, then share what you have. Relationships grow from that.” Bart prefers telephone over email, saying it helps personalize the follow-up.

Robert Arnone of The Arnone Chiropractic Clinic says as soon as possible. Everyone is busy and sometimes he can’t get around to it for a day or two. “Email is easy,” says Dr. Arnone, “but, phone is always better.”

Jessi Nienke of Small Business Accounting, LLC, follows up the next day. “If I make a good connection, I email right away.”  Jessi states that email is her preferred method because it provides a record of the day, time and message shared with the connection.

Tim Kilper of American Solutions for Business believes within a day or two is best, but admits that he needs to make better plans for follow-up. “Create a schedule for follow-up activities and stick with it.” Tim’s preferred method is by phone, especially if several days have passed.

Andrea Kosinski of Andrea’s Gluten Free is more selective in her events and follow-up. She’ll review the event ahead of time and attend with the intention to meet specific people. “That way I make strong connections without being inundated by the wrong target audience.”

Robert Gatesh with Transamerica Financial Advisors, Inc, stated without hesitation, “Within 24 to 48 hours. Beyond that, people forget.” The event creates a warm lead and waiting any longer makes that contact go cold. He prefers follow-up by phone and advises attendees to have a reason to call, even if it’s to offer an invitation to meet for coffee to learn more about a business.

My preference is to follow-up the next day. I call first but often end up leaving a voice message. Then, I follow-up with an email as a backup. Two additional tips that have worked well for me is to take time after the event to date each card and write down the event where I met the business owner. That way, I will always have a record of who, what, where, when.

But, hey, that’s the writer in me and I always enjoy scribbling helpful tidbits!

What are your preferences? Share them below!

Happy writing,
Kris the Scribbler

photo credit: www.uberoffices.com

Stepping Out: Breaking the Boundaries of Shyness

I just finished reading the book by Susan Cain, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.

In her book, she states that “one-third to one-half of Americans are introverts”. Do those numbers seem low to you? How do we know if someone tends to be introverted if that person practices daily to hide that trait? It isn’t something to be ashamed of, but when it comes to the business world, one must step out every so often to let others know about their business.

As the author goes on to explain, we all exhibit tendencies toward both introversion and extroversion, but some of us display these traits (visibly or not) more often than others. What this means is that there will be times even the most outgoing person will have difficulties presenting himself at one point or another.

When I was 8 or so, I was on a swim team. I loved swimming, I enjoyed training and I even enjoyed the competition. The only thing that held me back was my shyness: I feared standing out in a crowd; I feared being the center of attention.

When it came time to race, I became so nervous I barely heard the starting gun—though I never jumped the gun because that meant more attention on me. I didn’t hear the crowd, or the announcers, or my coach. And I often finished 2nd. Looking back, that’s probably why I was always second: Number One got all the attention and the spotlight; Number Two was soon forgotten.

Sometimes I look at my past and my tendencies toward shyness and wonder why I would pursue my own business when that meant REALLY standing out! Was I crazy? I knew what was required to own and run a business, yet I still pursued it. As Susan Cain mentions in her book, several introverted people pursued their desires despite their shyness and gave us great inventions, works of art or literature. Where would we be without Dr. Suess, Chopin, Albert Einstein, George Orwell, and several others?

In the business world, whether introverted or extroverted, we must stand out, be remembered, be likeable and stick our neck out higher than anyone else. Networking meetings, presentations, and conferences are just a few ways to be visible. Other methods include marketing, communication through online and offline methods, chat groups, webinars, and much more. Just think how terrifying cold calling is for many of us!

If one method is more troublesome for you than others, then turn your attention to another technique for now. For instance, if making a 1-minute presentation at a networking meeting is worse than a root canal for you, then find a local networking group on Linked In and become involved that way. Get known, be visible—online—and once you get to know several local business owners, find a networking group many will be attending and meet them there. It will be like a reunion, still a little awkward, but you’ll already know several attendees and they will know you.

Another technique to try is through your marketing and communications. If getting out and meeting people is a nail-biting experience for you, then give a little extra time to writing content that tells a story that you aren’t quite ready to do on your own. Then post it here, there and everywhere: social media, website, blogs and guest-blogging, newsletters, invoices, and more. As with the Linked in groups, you’ll develop a group of readers and then when you do meet up with your clients, you have something in common to discuss. You’re likely to have ideas for your next blog, newsletter or press release to hint at and develop anticipation for your listener.

Once you finish a meeting and you’ve successfully said hello, listened and chatted with one or two other business owners or clients, head back to your office or home and reward yourself! Chocolate. Beer. A bubble bath. A favorite movie. Blaring your favorite song. Whatever it is—do it! Enjoy and celebrate your success.

After 40-some years battling the shyness bug, you’d think I’d have conquered my fears. I still have my ‘moments’ but I always have chocolate handy! Then I remind myself that I’ve never been attacked or maimed or shunned through all those shy episodes. It took me awhile to realize this and someday I’ll tell the turning-point story. But here is another secret I’ll share: no matter how nervous you are, no one else needs to know. Write it on a piece of paper and hold it in your hand or place it in a pocket. There is no need to fight it but also no need to let it take over. There are many people who need your specialties. Go get them!

What about you? Do you fear cold calling, public speaking, the 1-minute elevator speech? How do you face it? If you’d like to learn some more of my techniques for reaching out or how to write content that speaks louder than you can, send me a note. I’d love to share more ideas.

Peace and plentiful writing!

Kristen McLain