In May of 2013, I attended the Society for Technical Communication (STC) Summit in Atlanta. I didn’t know anyone but that’s never stopped me from jumping right in. This got me thinking about my best professional and personal qualities, which made me think of the movie As Good as It Gets. In a scene between Jack Nicholson and Greg Kinnear, Kinnear’s character says, “The best thing you have going for you is your willingness to humiliate yourself.”
I don’t think I’ll list that quote on my business cards or as my tagline, but my willingness to humiliate myself has actually worked to my advantage in nearly every situation I’ve encountered. I’m not talking about really outrageous stunts or anything, just karaoke singing and storytelling.
So how does the willingness to sing karaoke or tell goofy stories open doors with business contacts and new friends? And how can this work for you?
When you’re willing to put yourself out there, people see that you don’t take yourself too seriously. People get tired of all the self-important BS that happens during networking events. You can present your message and your business goals without acting like you’re the only (important) person in the room.
When you’re willing to put yourself out there, it puts people at ease. The way I communicate with people, it shows that I’m human, I don’t claim to know everything, I make mistakes, and I’ll annoy you; however, I’ll also listen to your problems and help you find solutions. This transparent, honest communication style isn’t for everyone, but if you like it, you’ll naturally gravitate toward others who do, too.
It breathes life into the same old routines. Life so easily becomes lost in schedules, routines, spreadsheets, to do lists, and “we’ve always done it that way” statements. Sometimes you just need things to be shaken up a bit. Along comes someone goofy like me who is always smiling and saying strange stuff…and now you feel better about yourself.
You can ask yourself, “What’s the worst that can happen?” During this Summit experience, I could’ve worried that people wouldn’t like my karaoke singing or that they wouldn’t like talking to me. Or maybe that they’d think I wasn’t smart enough to be in the same room as them. Of course, I didn’t want to look like a complete idiot, but I chose to think about it this way: “What’s the best that can happen?”
In this case, I came away with new friends and new projects (although no paid projects, so I’m apparently not very good at this business stuff, lol). My karaoke singing was a conversation starter. After conversations started, I tried to continue them in several ways. I’m good with faces and names and stories, so I can remember people and remove the awkwardness they feel when they don’t remember each other. When I talk to conference presenters, I talk about something I learned during their sessions to show I was actually paying attention and that I appreciate their willingness to put themselves out there to teach the rest of us. And I talk about fun stuff like family and dogs and YouTube videos.
You don’t have to be a wild and crazy extrovert to put yourself out there in small ways. A simple smile and a handshake go a long way. Listening to others without judging and acting like you know everything goes a long way. I know a lot of people who are afraid of looking silly and don’t need to be. Perhaps this is a rather self-serving post, but let’s face it. It is all about me 😉