In one of my post last week someone asked an important question: How to deal with social anxiety while going to Internet Marketing conferences and trying to meet people? This is something that some people have no problem with while it scares the ever living shit out of others. A lot of my success working online has been because of the relationships I’ve made over there years. Surrounding yourself by positive, smart people is key in any business but is especially important when you’re working from behind the computer. It’s very easy to get “detached” with social settings when you spend a lot of time working behind the computer or alone in a room. Chatting behind a computer on Skype or AIM is easy because you’re simply just typing your responses. But to actually go out and meet someone face to face and talk to them can be extremely difficult to some. In college I minored in Communications which is where we studied scenarios such as this. To help deal with this I recommend coming to the show prepared, dressing appropriately, and practicing good conversion techniques.
A lot of social anxiety is brought on by not knowing what to say to someone when they approach you. That’s why it is very important to come to the show prepared. If you walk in hungover with little to no sleep it’s going to be hard to make a lot of sense and be able to hold deep in-depth conversations with other experienced people. If you’re already working online and are making money then you obviously know your shit. Before going to the conference though it’s important to make a list of goals and objectives you’re looking to accomplish. Consider physically listing some of your skills on a piece of paper and then practice explaining them to a close friend or family member. Pretend they’re an advertiser or new client and your goal is to sell yourself on how you can use your skill to leverage your business. If you’re just a beginner at working online focus on the skills that you do have. While it may not be setting up successful campaigns, it could be your promptness and ability to complete projects without stalling or taking a lot of time. One of your best skills may simply be your attitude or motivation.
A positive attitude can make all the difference. Running IMGrind.com for two years now I’ve had the opportunity to speak to hundreds of Internet Marketers from all over the world ranging from experience levels of complete newbie to million dollar month earners. Regardless of this, a positive attitude goes a long way. I can recall meeting one affiliate this past January at Affiliate Summit West that was just getting started but had a real poor attitude. They were very pessimistic and seemed to be annoyed at the entire world. Don’t be that person. That’s a very immature view of the world and people aren’t going to want to do business with you. Be an optimist, be confident, and focus on the skills you do have. That will give you the confidence to come to the show prepared. Also remember this is a conference and not a vacation. Don’t stay up all night getting trashed. If you’re going to do that, just go ahead and skip the conference the next day. Nothing is more annoying talking to someone with bloodshot eyes reeking of booze from the night before.
What to wear, what to wear? That’s a question so many people ask for their first conference. For starters, you want to wear something that’s going to make you comfortable but you also want to look professional. It’s 2013 not 1950 so neck ties are pretty much out the window. I used to really dress up at conferences but it seems like nowadays you’re almost out of place wearing a suit or even a neck tie. Go for a comfortable button up or polo shirt and a nice pair or designer jeans. Also, wear dress shoes and not tennis shoes (and certainly not flip flops) that have been trampled over for years. Look presentable but also comfortable. Make sure your clothes fit and to practice overall good hygiene. Brush your teeth, fix your hair, shower, wear deodorant, and carry some breath mints or gum. This may seem like a no brainer but you’d be surprised at the people I’ve run into that you don’t want to get near much less shake their hand and conduct business. It may also make sense to buy a new shirt for the conference; don’t wear something that is faded or you’ve been wearing since high school.
Practicing good conversion technique is very important. This all starts with a handshake. When you approach someone that you’re going to engage in conversation, you want to stick out your hand and firmly shake theirs while looking them in the eye. “Good morning, my name is Ryan Gray and I’m with Revived Media a full service mobile advertising agency.” That is a good way to approach someone. Don’t be looking at their name badge, down at the floor, to staring over their shoulder. People won’t take you serious. Also don’t give them the limp, sweaty handshake. If you’re palms sweat give them a quick rub on your pants before shaking someones hand. When you offer your hand for a shake, grasp theirs firmly, but don’t crush them either. You want to pretend you’re holding a bird. Too light and it’ll get away, too firm and you’ll crush its insides.
After your initial introduction and handshake its good to engage in a little small talk to begin the communication. Stay away from controversial topics (religion, politics, etc.) and stick to general things like: how was your flight in? what do you think of the weather? etc. Once you have successfully opened the communication get right to business on what you do, how you can help them, and eventually the opportunities you have to work together. At the end make sure to exchange contact information (have a professionally designed business card) and make sure to genuinely thank them for their time. Some people have very tight schedules so even a couple minutes out of their day could be a stretch. Let them know you appreciate them taking the time to talk to you regardless who they are. They will appreciate it.
Silence is awkward and so is when you don’t make eye contact. There is always something to talk about. How long are you in town for? So what exactly do you do? How can we work together? When did you get started? etc. Don’t ever find yourself in the position engaged in a conversation only to be staring at the other person. That’s not comfortable for anyone involved. Bring your confidence with you and look people straight in the eye. You want to see the black of their pupils each time you engage in conversion. When I’m speaking to a large group of people I make a special point to look every single attendee in the eye to let them know that I’m serious about them taking the time out to be at my meeting. This is a form of nonverbal communication that shows the other person you are confident in your abilities and would be a great person to conduct business with.
Social settings can be intimidating to some especially those that spend the majority of their time in a room alone on a computer. Unfortunately one of the keys to being successful in any business is having good communication skills. Do what you need to do to get over being shy – perhaps practice by doing some phone calls with your current business associates. Come prepared to the show by recognizing your skills and how you can “sell” them to others. Wear clothes that are in style but look professional. Avoid items that are too tight or too baggy. Finally make sure to engage in good conversion techniques and approach people with authority. Don’t be shy; that’s not going to get you anywhere. Keep the conversation flowing and have a positive attitude! Following these simple tips will help you deal with your social anxiety and enhance your trade show experience!
Ryan Gray is the founder and CEO of NameHero, one of the fastest growing independent web hosts in the United States. Ryan has been working online since 1998 and has over two-decades experience in Internet Entrepreneurship.