The secret to becoming confident at talking to strangers

 

In my popular blog post on how to network when you don’t have time to network, I suggest that you treat queues and fellow passengers on trains and planes as a networking opportunity. Does the thought of this fill you with fear? If so, you are in very good company with me. In fact, I think I would prefer to have my teeth pulled out rather than talk to people in the queue in front of me at the airport. I’m shy and British. Do I need to say any more?

Interestingly, this blog post was inspired by some great tweets with Alison Coleman and Agnes Cserhati, who it transpires love chatting with random strangers on planes, trains and automobiles. I duly confessed to not being someone whom finds it easy to talk to strangers in queues. Perhaps it is something to do with my mother telling me not to talk to strangers? Then Alison mentioned the fact that I’m quite prepared and even happy to walk into a room full of strangers and do my ‘work the room’ thing. With the implication, of course, being what’s the difference in these two scenarios? I’m still talking to strangers, just in different surroundings and contexts.

So, what sense can we make of this?

Firstly, we all have a comfort zone when it comes to talking to strangers. For me, I have conditioned myself to love ‘working a room’. After all, I did write a book on business networking! My uncomfortable zone is talking to strangers outside of ‘formally’ recognized networking opportunities. The more times you experience being outside of your comfort zone, the likelihood that your comfort zone (over time) will expand to more situations and experiences.

Secondly, being happy and comfortable talking to strangers is all down to your mindset. Therefore, if I tell myself that ‘I can do this’ and ‘it’s just networking with strangers in a different place’, I will find it far easier to talk to strangers in queues. Co-incidentally, I’m very good at talking to strangers in queues at conferences, because after all, these are great networking opportunities. Plus, I know other people are also there to network.

I am also aware, that as an introvert, time on planes and trains is my time to re-energise and re-charge. Well, that’s one of my excuses and I’m sticking to it! Although I am very tempted to try out Agnes’s tried and tested technique, sent to me via twitter, to draw strangers into a conversation:

“Little glance to start with=>eye contact=>assess situation=>make your move…ps:they don’t know you are shy”

Anyone else, going to give this a go?

For more tips on working the room or getting more bang for your networking buck, how about buying my award winning, best selling UK book on business networking - The FT Guide To Business Networking? It's had 76 five star reviews on amazon.

Comments
Old Greying Accountant's picture

Sorry, but ...    2 thanks

Old Greying Acc... | | Permalink

... strike up a conversation with someone who turns out to be be a long lost relative of Norman Bates on a plane or train and you are stuck with them for the next (what seems like) 25 years!

Long Advert    2 thanks

chatman | | Permalink

That's a very long advert. I feel like I have had my time stolen.

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I help professionals, mostly accountants and lawyers become the Go-To-Expert. After joining BDO LLP in 2004, I have now almost clocked up ten years working predominantly with accountants helping them achieve their career and business goals. Unusually for someone with an Engineering Degree, I accidentally became a writer and used my knowledge on social media to write the current best-selling and award-winning book on networking, The FT Guide To Business Networking. (over 100 five star reviews on amazon) In 2012, the book I always wanted to write, 'How to make partner and still have a life' was published. In March 2014, my next book, 'The Go-To-Expert: How to build your reputation, differentiate yourself from the competition and win business' is published. People frequently talk about me as someone who really knows her stuff – which may be the reason I have, over the last decade, worked with over 300 partners, coached and trained over 2000 professionals at every level of the UK’s most ambitious professional practices. 

I am honoured to have been asked to judge the British Accountancy Awards in 2011 and 2012. I am a member of the Accountant's Club Global Advisory Panel, and write regularly on practice management issues for CCH.

Myself, and Jon (my co-director) are approved Growth Accelerator Coaches. This means that we can if you are eligible, through the Growth Accelerator scheme, help you get some coaching funded by the scheme. Click here for more details to see whether you are eligible for the scheme.

The types of work I am currently helping my small professional practice clients with, includes:

1) Helping a £2m t/o practice grow to £4m by restructuring the firm and helping the management team step up 

2) Working with a £1m t/o practice to grow to £2m by generating more leads, and getting more work from existing clients

3) Enabling a £300k t/o practice grow to £1m by helping it sort out it's profitability by adding in efficient systems and processes, and increasing the quality of the  lead generation by marketing to a niche

4) Facilitating the growth of a one man band practice into a 3 person practice by helping increase the lead generation and conversion rate of leads, plus keeping the practice owner accountable to his goals.

The Excedia Group was founded by myself and Jon Baker to bring clarity, perspective and knowledge to help our clients achieve their business goals. We specialise in working with highly technical individuals, typically lawyers and accountants, helping them to get out of their comfort zone and build a profitable and sustainable client portfolio whilst handling the challenges of leading a business. 

My work splits into about 50% Executive & Business Coaching with Partners & potential partners, with the rest split between training, consultancy and writing.

My articles & quotes regularly appear in the press, e.g. FT, Guardian, Accountancy Age, Accounting Today, Economia, ACCA's publications. I regularly blog at Partnership Potentialventure-NowJoined up networking and How to make partner.

To book me for a speaking engagement please contact my PR Agency, Meerkat PR, on 020 8563 0182, and ask for David Stoch. For any other work related enquiries, please contact me directly.

My clients have included: Deloitte LLP, KPMG LLP, BDO LLP, Haines Watts, MSI Global Alliance, UK200 group, Macintyre Hudson LLP amongst others.