As someone who used to be painfully shy, I understand the challenges of those who would rather stick pins in their eyes than have to lead a meeting, network with a group of strangers, or approach a podium. Although I am somewhat comfortable now in group situations, I’ll never be an outgoing, microphone grabbing crowd leader. It’s just not me.
My shyness has dissipated somewhat since being a business owner. I’ve gradually learned to overcome my fear of self promotion and reaching out to others. And, my stomach doesn’t churn quite as much now when you throw me in a group setting. But, it has been a process, and I’ll always be working on it.
I know that there are countless other business owners out there like me who are good at what they do, but avoid business development and marketing opportunities because they are simply shy. To those around them, they may appear aloof or not interested in participating in these activities. However, what is not typically understood by individuals who aren’t shy is that this condition can’t just be willed away. For some, it can be insurmountable and can affect many aspects of one’s life.
That being said, there has never been a better time to be shy. Timid business owners now have a variety of technologies available to them that level the playing field. They can have the confidence of a shameless promoter without ever having to stand in front of an audience. New opportunities abound for those of us who aren’t the life of the party but who still want to grow their businesses. Here are a few of the tools that I’ve used to spread the word about my business without having to challenge my natural inclination to be reserved and yes, even slightly introverted.
Social media is truly a shy business owner’s best friend. You can reach out to potential customers daily, shout the benefits of what you do, and nurture relationships without having to utter a word. With Facebook, Twitter, and other sites, you can be the outgoing person you need to be to grow your business without having to challenge your tendency to be shy. And, as you develop an online outgoing persona, you will inevitably develop more confidence – confidence that will translate into an improved level of comfort and ease in all social interaction, not just those Internet-based.
Just the concept of having to go around a table and give an introduction or “elevator pitch” at a breakfast networking mixer can make the truly shy just want to run away. Organizers of these activities frequently don’t understand that they turn off many wonderful business owners who avoid at all costs having to speak in a group setting.
Fortunately, there are an increasing number of virtual networking opportunities that enable everyone to participate – regardless of how gifted they are at public speaking. For example, I belong to Adrian’s Network which lets me meet other business owners through facilitated phone calls and emails. While the group has in-person events, they’re not required. Everyone can participate at the level that they feel comfortable with. What a concept – a networking group that isn’t pressure-ridden!
Besides using social media and virtual networking, I take advantage of a whole bevy of other online marketing opportunities that give me the ability to present my business in the best possible light. I have a website, detailed business profiles on Elance and LinkedIn. I have a blog. I write articles for a number of publications, and I seek out public relations opportunities, too. These online tools have enabled me to get some great media stories including national coverage on ABC’s Good Morning America and CNN. Not too bad for a shy girl.
While I’m not diminishing the importance of face-to-face communications, I do believe that the Internet can open up many doors for shy business owners who aren’t as comfortable in social situations. Perhaps, this is a really good thing. Certainly, we’ve all had enough of blow-hard business owners who hog center stage. Maybe, now those of us who are more about communicating who we are through our work can have the spotlight too!