The journalist who called me had three questions: 1. “How can you walk into a room and command it?” 2. “How might this work for introverts?” 3. “And how can these abilities help in the business world?” This is how I answered her.
How to command a room: It's all about appearances, and appearance is all about confidence.
Walk with purpose. Straighten up. Dress like a million bucks. Smile.
(To win even more attention, bring a wingperson with you. Working together, you meet more people, faster, introducing each other to new contacts and then introducing those new contacts to each other. So you are always surrounded by the coolest, most positive people in the room.)
Prepare great stories to share. Don't just name-drop; tell stories that can inform and inspire other people. As a business meeting, this means talking about the simple business wins everyone is after, whether they relate to sales, innovation, getting through to big-name prospects, hiring, or business-travel tips. Create value for other people before you ever consider asking for anything for yourself.
Adopt a host mentality. Introduce people to each other – even if you don't know them yet. Put other people's needs first, and they will see you as a knowledgeable influencer.
Ask great questions. When you meet people, show interest by asking more about what they do and who they are. Seek out personal stories first; let people know you are curious about them, not just their business. Or ask Inclusive Questions that show you value people's opinions: "Where do you think oil prices are going? What's been the biggest change in medicine in recent years? Do you think our city can afford to host the Olympics?" Asking questions on larger topics than just their own businesses enables helps other people join the conversation.
Finally, pay attention to details. Practice noticing and remembering people’s names (there are many techniques for this). As you get to know other people, try to anticipate their needs: if you can suggest introduction or resources that are helpful to them, you’ll have new allies for life.
2. Yes, introverts can easily make all this happen. They just have to prepare themselves, both mentally and practically. That means working on your appearance and body language so you look more confident than you may really feel. If you think you're a schlub, other people will think you are, too. Walk a bit taller, speak a little louder and more confidently, smile more often. For a while you will have to consciously remind yourself to do these things, and they will become more natural.
Introverts are often at a loss for what to say next. That’s why you need to focus on your strengths and work on your stories before going out to events and parties. Think through what you know or do that will most interest other people. Keep looking for better, more intriguing stories. It doesn't have to be about business: It could be about your hobbies, your time spent at MIT, or that night you got locked in a department store. Write down at least five stories you feel comfortable talking about. Reread and rehearse them so you get better at telling them. For business networking, at least one of these stories should be about the time you most surprised and delighted a customer – but reserve it for business functions only). Remember: stories have beginnings, middle and ends. And in a crowded room, they should take less than a minute to tell.
3. Relationships make everything happen in the business world.Everyone needs a network of contacts and potential allies. The bigger your network, the more valuable it is (this is known as the network effect). The more people you can call on in times of need, the more benefit you can derive. (And don't just think in terms of your own times of need. Use your network to solve other people’s problems – because you increase the power of your network very time you connect more people within it.)
People are drawn to people with strong personal networks. They will see you as a charismatic, influential and positive figure, and they will naturally want to get closer to you.
Every business deal starts with a personal relationship.
No Relationship = No Trust = No Deal.
To build lasting relationships, it’s not enough to have a network, you have to use it! Create value for your network, by sharing news, information and industry intelligence, connecting people to other people who can help them, inviting your contacts to cool events. When your network knows you have their back, they will have yours, too. They will listen to your ideas and pitches, and happily offer value to you through their own advice, ideas, resources and referrals.
No one in business succeeds alone. So when you build your network, your network builds you.
The Bottom Line
The best way to own the room is to know the most people in it! In a crowded room, we all look around for people we know. Be the person others head towards. You can be the solution for other people who haven’t quite mastered their own networking skills.
This post is one of a series of articles of articles from Connectinc, the networking/mentoring partnership founded by Barbara Katz and me. For more information on how to build better business relationships, or how to improve your employees' networking skills, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or follow us on Twitter at @Connectinc_