Doing business in Australia is so deeply rooted in building relationships. It can be really hard for people who don't have those relationship building skills or for the introverts who find the whole process of getting to know you excruciatingly difficult.
Let me introduce myself: I am an introvert who would rather spend time by myself with a good book than almost anything else. But I am in a business and like most, our business works SO much better when we have clients! The contradiction is that I love collaborating on complex, knotty projects and being part of a successful solution, all of which requires having strong, respectful relationships.
You can pick an introvert - our eyes slither aways from yours because eye contact could trigger small talk and we are very uncomfortable with small talk. And we may even have food handy to shove in our mouths so that we can't talk! Aren't we a hilarious bunch.
We do love an interesting conversation but not a sales pitch. Hence the dilemma when looking at exhibitor booths, those treasure troves of interesting tech and new ideas are chock full of perky salespeople looking for decision makers - eeuughh!
Earlier this year we exhibited at the Intelligent Transport Systems Summit in Melbourne. This is the first time we have exhibited anywhere so it was a big adventure for us but we were among kindred spirits. As much as I felt out of my depth as an exhibitor, there were plenty of my clan walking around not quite looking at anything.
I prepared for my day in the booth by talking to an experienced exhibitor and an extroverted sales person who has an arsenal of techniques for breaking through. From them I understood that someone has to break the ice so I worked out a couple of ways of doing just that. I also put myself, easily, in the shoes of delegates wanting to know more but not be lectured or sold to.
So I started to talking to people as they approached my booth using the icebreakers I had prepared earlier. It worked! I met such interesting people. We found common ground. They enthused about the speakers they had seen and I sympathised when they'd been to a boring session.
There was no small talk beyond me asking how they were enjoying the conference and what talk they had been to. We introverts aren't big on small talk - it bores us. Instead we talked about VR, ergonomics, gps tracking, information design, the interface between the user and the system, building tunnels, knowledge management - all sorts of interesting things.
If you were at the ITS Summit and didn't come and say hello, just shoot me an email to say hi or send me a LinkedIn invitation to connect. We introverts are happy in the Australian business culture once we have made that first connection.
We understand the value of relationships but we build them on a shared enthusiasm for our topic rather than someone remembering our birthday or the name of our dog.
Thunder - that's my dog's name and here she is, hard at work. You'll meet her in our office if you come and visit.
If you want to read more about introverts, try this HBR article.
From introversion to extroversion - both can be frustrating!
- Super excited? Stop now, you are being annoying