“Standing out in a world where everybody is yelling LOOK AT ME”
My wife asks me the other day “Do I have presence, do I command attention when I walk into a room”? I answered immediately “Absolutely…when you’re with me” and she proceeded to pummel me after the answer (lol!). My honest answer is an unwavering affirmative, my wife does have tremendous presence and it commands attention. I like others use to attribute presence to looks, height, stature etc but after evolving quite frankly as a human being I’ve come to learn that it’s none of those things. I’ve been in the company of very attractive people and I can tell you on those occasions presence didn’t stand out to me as distinguishing factors among them. As a matter of fact in many of those situations the most unassuming person appeared to have more presence. Is it someone’s energy, behavior, air that makes for a favorable presence? The answer to that remains open but there is a “there there” when it comes to “Presence”. Just in the past few months I’ve read a lot of articles that speak to networking at conferences and I came across an article in Harvard Business Review: “How to Make Networking at Conferences Less Icky” (https://hbr.org/2015/10/how-to-make-networking-at-conferences-feel-less-icky) below is some of the passage:
“Whether you like attending them or not, conferences offer great opportunities for networking. At conferences, you can extend your network by meeting new people, including potential employers or employees, and you can catch up with and get updates from those you already know. In fact, networking has become a key factor for professional advancement and career success. Whether you’re an extrovert who fits naturally into any situation or someone who has a hard time chatting with new people, networking is a necessary skill if you’re looking to get ahead. But while a lucky few clearly have a natural talent for developing business relationships and reaping the resources that come with them, most people find networking uncomfortable, stressful, and even manipulative. I have studied why people have these feelings and have some suggestions for how to overcome them. In research I conducted with Tiziana Casciaro (of the Rotman School of Management) and Maryam Kouchaki (of Kellogg), we examined how people react to the prospect of personal networking in pursuit of emotional support or friendship andinstrumental networking in pursuit of professional goals. In one experiment, we asked 306 adults to remember a time when they networked. One group was asked to recall a scenario in which their goal was to form one-sided professional contacts — that is, instrumental networking. People in the other were asked to remember an attempt to form a more natural, personal connection with people in their industry — that is, personal networking. Next, the participants did a word-completion task in which they were given word fragments such W _ _ H, S H _ _ E R, and S _ _ P. These puzzles could be filled in with words related to cleanliness like wash, shower, or soap. But they could just as easily fit words unrelated to cleanliness such as wish, shaker, and step. The participants who’d been asked to recall the situation where they’d engaged in instrumental networking were about twice as likely as those who engaged in personal networking to fill those puzzles in with cleansing-related words. We concluded that instrumental networking, but not personal networking, makes people feel not only anxious or inauthentic but also physically dirty. The metaphorical link between feeling morally and physically pure, or clean, is a powerful one. In previous research, my colleagues and I found that feeling morally tainted increases our desire for cleanliness and find ways to be helpful to others in order to reduce such strong feelings”.
While there are absolutely some very valid points in the article there are a few things that I differ with that I shared as commentary that you can view by going to HBR, but one of them is this idea that only “extroverts” excel in a networking capacity. True, extroverts are comfortable in an environment that’s interactive and sociable however that doesn’t mean their success rate at getting that deal or partnership is higher than someone who doesn’t have that personality type. Those who deem such environments as icky or unclean as noted in the article I would argue from the very outset probably had a negative disposition regarding going to a particular conference. The article clearly differentiates “Instrumental Networking” versus “Personal Networking” which it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to guess which networking event the participant is going to find most comfortable. The point here is that “Networking” and all of its ambiguity is designed to meet YOUR objectives, and I understand that sounds selfish and self-serving but in the end regardless of whether you’re an extrovert or introvert the environment you choose to participate in will align to who YOU ARE.
“Extrovert” versus “Introvert”
This whole idea that “Mr/Ms Socialite” thrives in an environment where deals are made and partnerships are formed is just not accurate. I agree 99.9% of the path to success is getting out of bed, but the .01% doesn’t mean you have to be the life of the party to be successful. When I consult with CEOs of small and mid-size companies the question always comes up “How do I compete against those with the biggest voice”…another words those that have the most resources to be LOUD. My answer back is “Don’t say a word…show it”. Sometimes the biggest presence between someone who talks too much and someone who doesn’t is the silence between the two. The best salespeople are the ones that you can’t tell are selling you. The trick is “Advocating YOU…without saying a word”. We often place the titles of “Extrovert” & “Introvert” on individuals but they can also be placed on businesses. For example, you may say that Walmart would be the best illustration of a business that’s an extrovert and let’s say the corner Mom & Pop Store is the introvert. Both offer value in their own way and provide a unique service to a customer segment that enjoys doing business with them; however that doesn’t mean one is better than the other. The popular science is to say “Well Walmart offers so much more at relatively cheap prices so they’re a better store”, and to Walmart’s credit as an extrovert they have loudly driven that value proposition to the point that it’s put a lot of smaller stores out of business. However, while Walmart has amassed a gazillion dollar enterprise there are chinks in the armor that many neighborhood retail outlet stores have been able to successfully exploit. A 2011 article posted in Business News Daily they outlined 10 ways smaller retail stores have been able to fend off the monstrous Walmart:
- Target the higher end: Offering higher quality items, something Walmart is equipped to do. “Walmart tries to be all things to all people on the low end,” . “But not everyone wants the lowest quality and the lowest price.”
- Create a meaningful online presence: Developing customer email lists, writing blogs and getting involved in social networking are all areas in which small businesses hold an advantage.
- Offer specialty items: Small businesses have the opportunity to carry specialty items that Walmart and other big-box retailers can’t because small businesses don’t have to appeal to the general masses.
- Listen to your customers: While Walmart’s iconic greeters are friendly, they can’t really do much more than say hello and point you in the right direction. Small business owners, have that same opportunity to greet their customers each time they walk in the door — and the opportunity to make changes based on what they are hearing.
- Community involvement: Small businesses have the opportunity to make connections in the community by getting involved….personally
- Provide extra services: In addition to selling a product, small businesses have the opportunity to offer their customers additional services, like repairs and installation. Walmart, which doesn’t offer those services, uses a planned obsolescence strategy, selling cheaper products without repair options in the expectation that eventually the consumer will be back to buy another.
- Practice top-notch customer service: In a small business every customer can be treated as a VIP. And customers are much more loyal to businesses that make them feel special.
- Change products and vendors: Small businesses can much more easily mix up their product base to consistently meet the changing demands of their customers. If one product isn’t selling small businesses can look for a new vendor or simply change the product, while Walmart has long-term contracts signed with vendors that don’t make it as easy to quickly change things up.
- Provide meaningful merchandise: When customers are looking for a special gift… a gift from Walmart doesn’t necessarily ring of love.
- Establish convenience: Not everyone wants to spend their time maneuvering their way through Walmart’s cavernous stores. Small businesses give shoppers a place to quickly and easily get in and out with what they want. Mom-and-pop stores can use their small size to their advantage by making it easier for people.
“Walk softly and carry a big stick” is a significant quote in that sometimes “Leading by Example” and not being the big personality in the room can get you very far in life. Now that we have many ways to get in each other’s face the backspin to success will be how each of us can leverage that interaction so that it brings value on both ends. Being boisterous doesn’t work nor being a recluse, however if you bring value to others in your actions and not just your words you’ll definitely achieve success STANDING OUT in a world that says…LOOK AT ME!
Thank you so much!
AH2 & Beyond Consulting