Comic Con is an event that gets the most dedicated introverts to network!

What inspires super-intelligent, normally shy (even painfully shy!) introverts to dress like this and network fearlessly? Here are some of the secrets you can use in your everyday networking. You don’t even need to dress in tights!

John and I were in San Antonio last week to meet with one of our marketing mastermind groups, and we just happened to be in town the same time as Comic Con. If you have a Comic Con in your city, you’re probably familiar with the streets being taken over by people in bizarre costumes, talking up a storm with perfect strangers and even (gasp) posing for photographs!

Since this month’s topic is networking, it seemed a perfect opportunity to make some observations, and talk with a few cosplay-inclined friends for those of us who are about to attend the fall aviation trade shows that come with the inevitable mixers and networking events.

(Cosplay, from the Urban Dictionary- Literally “Costume Play.” Dressing up and pretending to be a fictional character (usually a sci-fi, comic book, or anime character).

Please understand, some of my favorite introverts who attend Comic Con are the least likely to draw attention to themselves. It’s hard to get them to a party with more than four people in attendance, much less a “networking event.”

So, what’s the difference? And more importantly, what can we USE to make those networking events a lot more pleasurable and productive?

Two things:

  1. Prepare more.
  2. Worry less.

Well, that was simple!

Seriously, many of us “reformed introverts” understand the importance of networking events. We know we should attend, represent our company, our product or our service. We know that the next person we meet might just happen to be our next perfect customer or partner.  But unstructured time in a room with strangers is not the easiest social situation.

Prepare more.

I’ve been guilty of failing to prepare for a networking event.  I might know that I “should” go to a particular networking event, so I put it  on my calendar. At the same time, if I’m dreading the event just a little bit,  I might spend as little time as possible thinking about it beforehand.

So, when the appointed day arrived, I used to worry that morning about what to wear. I would drag my feet all day until at least twenty minutes into the event. Then I would show up, stand in line, get a drink, find a table, and wait for the obligatory forty minutes to pass. If someone came to talk to me, great! Hopefully they wouldn’t be scary.

These days, I probably would have buried my nose in my phone or tablet.  The perfect universal  “don’t talk to me” gesture.

Needless to say, this would NOT be the most effective networking experience.

Here’s what’s better.

Comic Con attendees spend months preparing for (and looking forward to) the event! They spend hours and days on the details of their costume. They study up on current events – movies and books coming out in the cartoon or character that’s their particular specialty.   They connect with other fans of a particular character or genre on social media prior to the event.

Because of all this preparation,

  • They feel great about the way they look. They’ve spent time and energy on their outfit.
  • They know what to say.  They are very well-informed about topics that will be of interest to other attendees.
  • They have made some connections online and are looking forward to meeting people in person.

Why not do the same thing?

Just like Comic Con, except with navy blue suits instead of capes and tights.

If you were to fly over the convertion center in a drone looking at people’s outfits during the NBAA convention, you would be looking at largest collection of navy blue business suits you’ve ever seen.

Feel great about the way you look. You know the uniform for NBAA ahead of time. You have two choices:  blend in, or stand out.  My advice, blend in unless you have a great reason for standing out. If you’re wearing “the uniform,” people will be inclined to notice and remember what you say, rather than what you were wearing.   If you’re uncomfortable in a suit, ask a colleague or mentor who dresses better than you for a referral to a salesperson or tailor. Throw yourself on the mercy of an expert in navy blue suits.  (Amy at Nordstrom’s in Salt Lake City would be great.)  Find something appropriate you love and feel good in. And be thankful you don’t have to wear tights and a cape.

  • Know what to say.  Sooner or later, someone is going to come up to you at a networking event, and say, “So, what do you do?”  You can look at your shoes, fumble around and turn red, or you can be prepared with a polished and fabulous 15-second sales pitch.  If this person is an ideal prospect, great!  You’re off and running on a profitable conversation. If this person is NOT an ideal prospect, at least you were clear about what you’re there for, and now the two of you are free to discuss other things comfortably.
  • Make some connections online before the event.   From the introverted comfort of your own desk, use your favorite social media channel to connect with people you think may be going, or just broadcast a message – “#NBAA2015 – Going to Las Vegas?  Let’s connect at the Networklng Session at 1:00 on Wednesday!”  If anyone responds, you can look them up beforehand and learn a few topics you have in common to talk about. (And yes, John and I will be there so you can always connect with us!)  Before my first NBAA convention, we had the great good fortune to connect with Benet Wilson, Jon Ostrower,  Ludo Van Vooren, Mary Kirby, Beth Humble, and several other folks who made us feel very welcome and introduced us around.
  • Worry Less.

    Another really cool thing about Comic Con is that it’s fun.

    The same is true of big aviation conventions like NBAA.  Take the pressure off yourself while you’re at the convention. The work is behind you. You’re there to have fun!

    • Don’t worry about what you’re wearing. That’s already resolved. If you get mustard on your tie, fine!  You now have a conversation-starter.  Don’t get thrown by inevitable details.  Just go with it.
    • Don’t worry about what to say. You’ve done your homework, you have a 15-second “schpiel” that you can deliver comfortably on command, and you know enough about your specialty to carry on a light conversation for the next 20 minutes.
    • Don’t worry about what you don’t know.  If somone needs technical details, that can come later.  If you get into the weedy details of how your product is made, people’s eyes will glaze over anyway. Keep things light and on the surface.
    • Don’t worry about closing sales.  At your booth or at a networking event, you have 15 minutes or less with each person you meet.   You’re just there to meet people and start relationships. Sales will come later.
    • Enjoy yourself.  Look at all the shiny toys.  Enjoy the classes.  Meet cool aviation people. People-watch. Observe all the people working too hard. (Now that you’ve learned not to!)

    So, you have more than a month to prepare for NBAA.  The sooner you start, the more relaxed you’ll be!

    To get started preparing:

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