Many people feel uncomfortable in meeting strangers. But if you don't meet strangers, how will you build your network? As an entrepreneur, you need to overcome your social fears so that you can talk about your product/service and build relationships with potential buyers, distributors, customers, employees, etc.
In an article for Forbes magazine, Bob Goodyear, technical product manager for Symantec, confesses to being a wallflower and having trouble mingling. On a recent business trip, Goodyear vowed to overcome his fear. Before the event, Goodyear said that he "researched all the companies that would be represented...so that when I saw the company's names on the guest's name tags, I had a piece of information about their firm to use as a conversation starter." Another technique Goodyear uses is to put a time limit on how long he feels he has to mingle. "I tell myself, Bob, there's nothing you can't do for 30 minutes."
Dr. Mark Goulston, a psychologist, has used Goodyear's strategies and has built on them. Goulston sets a goal for himself at social events. For example, he promises "to meet three new people and have them be glad to have met me." Another technique Goulston uses is something he calls "FTD delivery." Get to know people by asking how they feel, what they think, or what they have done or would do given a certain topic. By starting the conversation directed at the other person, you take the focus off of yourself (and lower your stress level).
Ultimately, saying "Hi" is all about believing that you have something worth sharing with the other person, says John Baldoni, a corporate communications consultant in Ann Arbor, Mich. "You can't be afraid of sounding incompetent," he says. "You have to believe that you deserve to have the interaction, that your company depends on you and that you have something to offer the other person in the exchange."
As an entrepreneur, do you fear social situations? Do you want to become a better networker so that you can attract new customers, distributors, employees, etc? What tips do you have for other entrepreneurs who want to become better networkers?