Introducing yourself as part of the networking process can be daunting to many, as it takes some guts and we all worry about “first impressions” – as in the old, but ever-accurate adage: “You don’t have a second chance to make a first impression.”
Before we dig into the psychology behind introductions, let’s review a bit of data we collected in our recent networking poll of 4,945 small business owners. This chart tells us a lot about the roles many want to play while networking.
As you can see, “introducing myself to others” is the No. 1 answer from 67% of those polled, and “making introductions between others” is the second most important answer, as 39% of those surveyed told us that. Then we have 32% who said they’re more passive and would rather have others approach them, instead of making the first move. (Note, for this question, we permitted multiple answers).
So, no matter how you look at networking, nailing the introduction is important – whether you’re introducing yourself or you’re introducing a peer.
The Psychology Of Introductions
Let’s admit something. It can be very awkward to introduce ourselves (or even others) to people who don’t kn0w us from Adam (or Eve). Even thinking about the process can unearth a wide variety of vulnerabilities – some we don’t even want to admit to ourselves.
Whether you’re figuring out how to best introduce yourself at an in-person event, or a quick meeting for coffee, or on an online network like Alignable, your first move needs to be tackling all those “don’ts” that tend to hold us back.
The reason for that is simple – these worries can really get in the way of even making that introduction – or networking at all – and we don’t want you to give up before you’ve even begun.
And hey, if you know me, you know I’m a hugely extroverted person who comes alive with people – and pets – around me. But I was raised by a Mom who could best be described as a lovely, and very friendly hermit, so I understand extreme introverts pretty well, too.
To all of the introverts and extroverts, I know you have a collection of don’ts or other vulnerabilities in your head. But remember, it’s likely the people you’re reaching out to have their own, as well.
Secret Fears To Get Over Or Laugh At
We’re all worried about the impression we make, but at a certain point, you just have to be yourself, roll the dice, and find your tribe(s) in life – and in the small business networking world.
So, let’s face our fears together, and do away with these don’ts (or at least laugh at them), so we can enjoy the rest of the networking process and build new relationships and our businesses simultaneously.
Here are just a couple of don’ts I’ve heard over the years:
- Don’t misspell or mispronounce someone’s name
- Don’t look too desperate, hungry, or unkempt (in person, or on Zoom, or in a note)
- Don’t sound too nervous – or speak too fast
- Don’t look too laid back – like you don’t care about anything
- Don’t come off as too enthusiastic (people might think you’re not genuine, hiding something, or worse: drunk and/or high)
- Don’t come off as too cocky
- Don’t be afraid to sell yourself
- Don’t be a wallflower waiting for others to act
- Don’t come off as too old, too young, too green or too much of a know-it-all
- Don’t look too sexy
- Don’t look too buttoned-up or formal
- Don’t call anyone Ma’am or Sir
Which “Don’ts” To Remember & What To Forget
I won’t address all of these, and I hope you identified with a few of them, even if they made you cringe or chuckle a bit. But let me highlight a couple, so we know what to pay attention to and what to ignore.
- Yes, make every effort to spell someone’s name right and pronounce it correctly. But if you flub something, it’s not necessarily the end of the world. (Do you know how many people have called me Mr. Castro? My guess: 1.2 million). It’s a hard name to get right unless you know me, you realize I never lived in Cuba, or you reside in Ohio, where there are a lot of Castos.
- On that note, just stick with first names. If you’re reading this and you’re over 20 – you don’t have to call anyone Mr. or Ms. or Sir or Ma’am. In fact, do us all a favor and kindly DON’T do that. We don’t want to feel any older than we already are.
- Don’t blatantly sell yourself – rather find out what your new connection does – and ask how you can help him or her. That’s a nice way of opening the door to a discussion about what all you bring that’s appropriate to the situation, and what that new person can bring to your business/life.
- Don’t worry so much about how you come off to someone else – do they think I’m older, younger, wiser, inexperienced, etc.? Just don’t put on airs or pretend to be someone else. Savvy small business owners can spot a phony a mile away.
- Be genuine, be empathetic, and show as much of your “giver” side as possible. And if you’re naturally a huge giver, let that shine bright. Givers love finding other givers and want to help them, because takers absorb way too much of everyone’s energy.
Many of the rest of these don’ts are really up to you, your personality, the situation you find yourself in, or what the gurus call “your personal brand.”
Be You, But Don’t Give Someone A Heart Attack
As an aside, some of us only wish we had to worry about looking “too sexy” at an event or on a Zoom call. I say if you feel good wearing something that helps you stand out, then go ahead and wear it. (Just try not to give someone a heart attack when they first see you).
Now that we’ve tackled the psychological blockers to effective introductions and we’re all in a better mood, let’s look at a few next steps you need to take on Alignable to introduce yourself and establish a strong networking foundation. Chances are good, if you’re reading this, you’re already a member. But if you aren’t, your next move needs to be signing up for free here.
Step 1: Be sure you’re active on Alignable, daily
You want to be visible, showing others that you have great knowledge (and more importantly, that you care about helping them).
In this way, you can use Alignable to “introduce” yourself through your expertise and willingness to help. And remember that business owners with bigger networks have more opportunities — for introductions, to share their knowledge, to get and give referrals, to build partnerships, to develop co-promotions, and more. (So go BIG).
Step 2: Find a business owner to connect with
Remember I said you need to find your tribe(s)? That begins with figuring out who you’re excited to meet.
Start the process by clicking on My Network from the top navigation bar.
From there, you’ll see a list of suggested connections. These business owners might be located close to you, know other people in your network, or work in a similar industry as you.
Keep scrolling down the page to new members, too.
See someone you want to know more about? Simply click on their profile.
Then, read through it to learn more about their business, backstory, ideal customer, referral partners, and more. Make sure to look for recommendations about them and check out their website, too.
That quick research can help you decide if you want to meet them or not.
Pro Tip: Connect with business owners who have complete profiles. The more detail, the better! They’re more likely to be actively engaged on Alignable and excited to hear from you.
Step 3: Reach out
Now that you have someone you’d like to meet, it’s time to connect. Simply hit the connect button to start the process.
Then you’ll see that you have the option to add a custom message.
This is your chance to infuse a little bit of your personality, explain why you might be a good connection, and generally stand out with the other business owner.
Go for it and see what happens next…And remember, tap your “giver” side to the best of your ability.
This introduction is less about you and more about how you can help.
Step 4: Arrange a time to chat
Once the member you’d like to meet accepts your request, make sure you start building the relationship.
This is a good time to set up a “let’s grab coffee” date if it’s someone nearby.
Or if you’re connecting with someone farther away – or you want to ease into your relationship a bit – go ahead and set up a one-on-one video call. And you can do that right from Alignable.
- Simply go into the Messages tab in the top navigation menu.
- Along with a list of your connections, you’ll see a Schedule Virtual Meeting button next to each one.
- Click the link to schedule the meeting and send a request to your new connection.
- They’ll receive a message and email.
- And once they confirm, you’ll both get calendar invitations.
When you meet, focus on building the relationship before you dig into business opportunities. No one likes the hard sell. Instead, figuring out if you like/trust the other person, and if there are good reasons to work together, are better objectives for this first meeting. These tips for being in a video call with a new contact can help, too.
Step 5: Keep your connections going strong
After you meet, make sure to keep the conversation going with your new connection. And repeat the process regularly to expand your network, making the most of the rest of 2022 and beyond.
And remember, it’s always important to get over those initial fears we talked about. The more you reach out to others, the faster you’ll find your tribe(s), and the quicker your connections, referrals, and prospects will flourish.
It all starts with the right, genuine introductions and then continuing to be yourself as you make more introductions and expand your network.
Remember To Make Networking Fun
Enjoy yourself, meet some great people, build their business and yours, and always be of service.
You’ll find the right people to help you, as you support others along what I’m sure will be a long and prosperous networking journey.
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