Monday, February 7, 2011

KELSEY BROWNING: Networking for Introverts

Please welcome writer Kelsey Browning to the blog. Kelsey is one of the co-founders of the fabulous writers' resource, Romance University.

Here's Kelsey: First, I want to thank Becky for inviting me to chat with Once Written, Twice Shy readers, especially since I’m not an introvert. Exactly.

According to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), I’m slightly to the “E” side of the extrovert/introvert continuum. But I find the longer I write, the harder it becomes for me to function as an extrovert. So I want to share some networking tips that will work hard for introverts even when you’re behind your desk. Quick caveat: these techniques aren’t a substitute for face-to-face interaction, but they’re a great complement to traditional networking.

The word “networking” can strike fear into the hardiest extrovert’s heart. And introverts? The threat of emotional and psychological vampirism (i.e. networking) can paralyze them. But what if you could network without encountering huge rooms, endless chatter, spilled drinks, grating laughter and subsequent panic attacks? Would you dance a little dance?

Well, introverts, prepare to jitterbug.

Tip One: Keep good contact records on people. Not a CIA dossier, but start with basic contact information. Full name, email address and context are essential. Context might be an editor’s title, a writer’s genre or the name of a mutual friend. Create a record-keeping system according to your personality. That could be a shoe box full of business cards, a spreadsheet, a card file, an online address book, or software like Microsoft Outlook. In a perfect world, I would recommend using customer or contact relationship management software (CRM) for your records because CRMs are sophisticated enough to serve as a virtual assistant. However, few of us have the time or money to invest in another computer program.

Tip Two: Create a tickler system. (No, this is not the plot of a Harlequin Blaze book.) A tickler system gives you a nudge when it’s time to contact someone or perform a task. You might set a tickler for a book release, a birthday, or a random date in the future. You can utilize your calendaring or task software for this function as well. I use Outlook for the Mac. For example, when I schedule someone to guest lecture at Romance University, several follow-up actions are required. I’ll create a task labeled “REBECCA CLARK – response to invite?” and then set a reminder for two weeks in the future. If I haven’t heard back from Becky at that time, my reminder will engage and I’ll know to send her a follow-up email. If she does respond, I update the task and reminder for the next action: “REBECCA CLARK – topic set?” With Outlook, these tasks pop up on my computer and also print out on my weekly and daily calendars. If you use a paper calendar, just pick a desired follow-up date and jot yourself a note. Remember to make the note simple, but specific enough to explain the task.

Tip Three: Keep track of one or two details about each of your contacts. Maybe you went to the same university, lived in the same town or both love llamas. If so, make a note in your records. A perfect time to shoot off an email would be when your college football team accepts a bowl bid, the town council approves naked rollerblading in the local parks, or registration opens for the Llama Lovers International convention.

Tip Four: Update your records regularly, but don’t get too enamored of your system. I warn you because I could happily play with my record-keeping software all day (and yes, I’m aware that’s sick). Take time once a month—or once a week if you can stomach it—to update your records. Updating batch makes the task more manageable. Just toss those emails or envelopes in a folder, virtual or real, until it’s time to do maintenance.

Tip Five: Use all that lovely information and make the contact. That could be a simple email, a longer phone call or a card sent through the mail (the U.S. Postal Service is still around). People love to be remembered so almost any time is appropriate to “network.” Some great reasons are to congratulate on a recent accomplishment, share some industry news, follow-up after a conference or just say hello.

Consider adopting this low-key networking system, and I promise you’ll put most extroverts to shame!

QUESTION: One Written, Twice Shy readers, do you feel a jitterbug coming on now? What do you hate most about networking?

About Kelsey: Kelsey Browning writes contemporary and paranormal romance with a hint of southern sizzle. In her former life, she worked at one of the ten largest universities in the U.S., raising money and teaching students how to land their dream jobs. Now she pursues her dream job of freelance and fiction writing, which provides excellent benefits such as unlimited coffee and an office dress code that permits flip flops. She’s also a co-founder of
Romance University blog where the mission is to empower writers, entertain readers and understand men. Originally from Texas and after four years in the Middle East, she now lives in Southern California with her IT-savvy husband, baseball-obsessed son and seriously spoiled dog. She’s currently at work on the first book in a new paranormal series. For more information, please visit www.KelseyBrowning.com.

13 comments:

  1. Hi Kelsey and Rebecca,

    Thanks for the great post! One of the things I find the most difficult about networking is small talk. I've learned at writing conferences that you can get a conversation going by asking, "What do you write?" or "Is this your first conference?". But, after that line of questioning, I break out in hives wondering if any question I ask will be too personal or simply none of my business.

    So, I sidle up to Kelsey, smile, and take notes!

    Thanks,
    Tracey

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  2. Tracey -

    Thanks for stopping by so early this morning (ok - maybe it's only really early on the west coast :))!

    You make a fantastic point about face-to-face networking: Don't go in cold. Have two-three questions in your pocket so you can jump start the conversation. What most people don't realize is the person standing in line in front of you or sitting at your luncheon table is just as nervous about starting a conversation as you are. So, believe me, they'll be grateful when you take the lead.

    Another good strategy, once you ask that initial question, is to sit back and really listen. Don't anticipate your next comment. You're sure to catch a tidbit from the person that will help. For example, I meet tons of people from Chicago when I'm at RWA National. So I have a natural next question: "My primo blogmates are from Chicago! Do you happen to know Tracey Devlyn or Adrienne Giordano?"

    Hope you have a fantastic Monday!
    Kelsey

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  3. Hi Kelsey and Rebecca. Yeah, I'd never call Kelsey an introvert. :)

    Great post, Kels. Another favorite ice-breaker is to ask who their favorite author is. People generally enjoying about their favorite author's books.

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  4. Kelsey, thanks so much for coming on today. I love your post. :)

    What do I hate most about networking? Um, everything? Seriously, I think it's small talk. Small talk brings the fear that I'm boring the person that I'm talking to, or that I'll say something stupid. So usually I just listen and don't say much.

    :)Becky

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  5. morning all!

    Great post Kelsey! Even if you'd run screaming from the room if you saw my "organization" consisting mostly of cocktail napkins (I work in a restaurant) with barely decipherable squiggles on them. On the other hand, having worked in a restaurant, I've had to overcome my extreme shy side (I used to hide in the closet when customers came in the door..lol) and am now the master of small talk. And living in Iowa? One thing you can ALWAYS talk about is the weather. =)

    Great post!

    carrie

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  6. Kelsey -

    I can relate to the extrovert/introvert conflict. I'm the same way when I'm writing.

    I'm constantly astounded by your knowledge, skill and organization skills. Teach me, Yoda!

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  7. Adrienne -

    That's a perfect question to ask at a writing conference because you can bet people can go on about their fave authors for days.

    What about at a cocktail party - what's your question/comment of choice?

    Most people go with "What do you do?" but I'm going to working on coming up with something MUCH more original :).

    K-

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  8. Becky -

    In many ways, that's smart - because people LOVE to talk about themselves (and they tend to think highly of people who let them do it - LOL).

    One other thing I recommend is to come up with an interesting tidbit about yourself that will help people remember you. Of course, my tidbit for several years was that I lived in the Middle East. But it could be about your pets, family, hobbies, day job or whatever. And if you think you're not interesting (which is absolutely NOT true), then ask your friends what they find most fascinating about you and use that.

    Thanks for having me today, Becky!
    Kels

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  9. Carrie -

    Hey - as long as your...ahem...organizational system works for you, then it's a winner :). Seriously, some people are wonderful at keeping up with things in their heads, on post-its and cocktail napkins. That's perfectly fine - just make it work for you.

    So glad you're not hiding in the supply closet anymore. The thing that cracks me up about you is how Midwestern dry you are when we talk on the phone. You must wonder if I ever take my ADD meds (j/k) - LOL.

    And yes, weather is a great ice breaker (no pun intended).

    Kels

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  10. Becke -

    Don't try to fool these people - you are the networker extraordinaire, and I stand in awe of your sill and network.

    What would you say the most important aspect of networking is?

    Thanks for stopping by!
    Kelsey

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  11. Hi Kelsey...
    Sorry for chiming in so late, but I stayed up into the wee hours writing.
    From what I've gathered from your emails, you don't strike me as an introvert at all. And you're right about Carrie and her flat Midwestern twang on the phone...she sounded kind of scared the first time I spoke to her.
    I know what you mean about dipping your toes into the network wading pool. It's kind of like being the new kid at school; you're not sure if people will talk to you or not.

    I'm not organized at all..which is strange because all of my heroines are extremely organized. I am a stationery whore though, and now I can justify my purchases because I do send out a lot of thank you notes. I think the most important thing about networking is to be genuinely sincere.

    I'm excited about going to my first Nationals. Unfortunately, I'll be the one people will run from because I can talk and talk and talk about almost anything. (Ask Carrie or Becke...) You've been warned!

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  12. Jen -

    If you love to chat, then we should be a perfect match. I see some great "networking" time coming on in NYC this summer!

    Kels

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  13. Kelsey,
    Somehow I missed that you posted on Becky's blog till now.

    Man, you're organized! I'm in awe. I like the idea of a tickler file. I use Google calendar and set a suspense (that's what we used to call it in underwriting) for sometime in the future, but I've just been doing it for my guest blog schedule. Never thought about doing it for contacts.

    I'll definitely be using some of your tips!!!

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