• Meghan Ward
  • [NETWORKING FOR INTROVERTS] What are you afraid of?
[NETWORKING FOR INTROVERTS] What are you afraid of?
Written by
Meghan Ward
October 2014
Written by
Meghan Ward
October 2014

Photo courtesy of Stuart Anthony via Creative Commons

I've been thinking about fear lately. When I attended the BlogHer '13 conference in Chicago, Sheryl Sandberg (COO of Facebook and author of Lean In) urged us to "Write down what you are afraid of, then go do it." I thought about what I wanted to do but was too afraid to do. At the moment it was to blog about race. My fear was that, as a white person, I would be criticized by people of color for not knowing anything about race. I still haven't done it, but I plan to one day (I'll have to now that I've posted it publicly!)

When it comes to networking, a lot of people fail to act because they are afraid. They are afraid to introduce themselves to people they don't know at literary events and conferences. They fear they don't know enough about social media to get started. They worry they will come off as too self-promotional if they post links to their blog posts or book readings on Facebook and Twitter. Others fear they will fail, so they don't try at all. Still others fear all the hard work involved in developing an author platform.

Although I am no expert on fear, here are a few things I have done in the past that have helped me overcome some of my own fears (stage fright, social networking, socializing at parties)

1. Jump out of a plane.

Okay, this option isn't for everyone. But when I was living in LA, I took one of those 6-hour accelerated freefall courses where you learn how to skydive alone in one day. A couple of days later, I had to perform a scene in front of my acting class, something that usually terrified me. The day of my scene, all I could think was, "I could have died skydiving. The worst that will happen to me today is that someone will laugh at me." It put everything in perspective, and I performed my best scene ever.

2. Practice.

Before a public reading, I practice my piece several times to make sure I won't stumble over my words, that there aren't any awkward phrases in my writing, and that the reading feels like second nature, so I can focus on my delivery. Some people are good at improvising. I'm not. For me, practice is everything.

3. Remember that we're all just people.

Before you click "send" on your newsletter (a moment I hate), before you record your first YouTube video, before you get up to talk in front of a group of people for the first time...remember, we're all just people, and we're rooting for you. We want you to succeed. Pretend that you're talking to a group of friends. Because—guess what?—strangers are just friends you haven't met yet.

4. Look good.

I don't know about you, but I feel more confident when I look my best. A  week or two before a reading or other public speaking performance, I get my hair cut if it needs it. The day of the performance, I pick out what I'll wear, put on make-up (not something I do every day), try on my outfit to make sure it fits and doesn't need to be ironed. Once I'm dressed and ready to go, I run through my reading a couple more times—a full dress rehearsal!

What about you? What do you fear? Why? What tricks have you tried for overcoming your fears? What has worked and what hasn't?

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  • Meghan Ward

    Nina, what is your topic? That must have been so frustrating to hear everyone agreeing with the misinformation. Good for you for speaking up!

  • Nina Angela McKissock

    Thank you. I'm just afraid of coming off as though I know all the answers, am pompous or am a supplicant. I'm a bit blunt so that comes across as arrogant sometimes. When I was in California two weeks ago, everyone was so chill but they were discussing my topic and agreeing with someone who was giving misinformation. I took a deep breath and said, "Why do you believe that? Tell me the science that supports your belief." That was very un-California and I felt it. Give me a respectful, animated, sometimes loud, argument!

  • Janet Singer

    Thank you, Meghan!

  • Meghan Ward


    Thanks for the clarifications about OCD. I'm so glad your son found help through ERP therapy. I'll spread the word.

  • Janet Singer

    Meghan, Yes of course you need to read the whole book :). Seriously, though, OCD is not what most people think it is. It is not a mildly annoying, cute, quirky disorder. It is the most misunderstood and misrepresented mental health issue around. OCD is an insidious, tormenting disorder with the potential to destroy lives, and sufferers have been known to commit suicide. Certainly not what the general public means when they say (wrongly), "I'm so OCD."

    My son recovered from severe OCD through the use of Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) therapy, a type of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Many therapists don't even know about this therapy, even thought it is recommended by the APA. My goal from the beginning has been to spread the word as to what OCD really is, and to let people know it is treatable.

  • Meghan Ward


    Thanks for your insightful comment! There was a book, "Quiet" by Susan Cain, out a couple of years ago, and I really wanted to read it but didn't get around to it (yet). Have you read it? There's definitely great power in listening. I was very shy as a kid and always a great listener. As I've grown older I've become less shy and sometimes have to remind myself to listen more and talk less.

    By the way, I don't fully understand the difference between shyness and introversion. I get the idea that shyness is considered an insecurity while introversion is considered more of a choice, but I'm not sure that's accurate.

  • Meghan Ward

    Mickie, Congratulations on conquering so many of your fears! I posted this to my own website, too, and a black woman there encouraged me to discuss race. I will do it one of these days! My biggest fear is saying the wrong thing, but I think that's why we need to discuss it. White people need to get over the fear of saying the wrong thing in order to become part of the conversation. Maybe I could interview you once I get started.

    When you say "scariest," do you mean "easily scared"? Or are we talking big ferocious type of squirrel? I wonder if "pondering every angle of a situation" is common among writers. I'm the same way.

  • Meghan Ward


    Thanks for letting us know about your book. What did your son do to overcome OCD? Do you have a few quick tips for us, or do we need to read the whole book? :)

  • Meghan Ward

    Jessica, this is great advice for giving speeches! Not sure it works for storytelling/reading fiction/memoir, but worth a try. Thanks for your feedback.

  • Patti DeNucci

    Hello Meghan,

    This is a wonderful post with some clever and inspiring ideas. I'm not about to jump out of a plane anytime soon (although...). But I have done some crazy, somewhat-scary things that have put any fears (real and imagined) into perspective for me. I'd also like to add that, as a business socialization / networking / connecting expert and author of The Intentional Networker, my experience is that introverts per se can be WONDERFUL and WELCOMED networkers. Why? Because they often would rather listen than talk. How refreshing is that?  If, as an introvert, you struggle with social / networking events (or any setting involving people or strangers), go armed with some thought provoking, conversation-sparking questions such as "What attracted you to this gathering?" "Have you ever attended before?"  "What work or projects are you involved with now? Are you enjoying them?"  "If you could do anything, what would you do?"  Then just sit back and listen. You will be appreciated and memorable - because who doesn't want to be listened to and heard?  Any of you out there who are so moved are welcome to visit my website www.intentionalnetworker.com and sign up to get some helpful information for networking.  I'm half introvert, half extrovert so I definitely understand both sides. Here's to both and what makes the world go 'round!

  • Mickie Sherwood


    Your hesitancy to write about race is understandable. I'm a Black woman with my own take on race. Now, add to that, I'm a Baby Boomer. So, whether Black or White, young or not so young, it takes courage to start a discussion on race. (Okay. That fear has been scratched.)

    Some in my family call me "Squirrel". They say I'm the scariest person they know. I'm not petrified by fear. But, it slows me down because I have to ponder every angle of a situation. Since I've written several romance novels, that's one fear I've tackled. Social networking is one that's a struggle for me, now. So, this reply is another fear conquered. My goal is to jump in "feet first" and "notch them off" one at a time.

    I liked your numbered list. I've done all of them except number one. Does parasailing count? I think that it does. And—another fear bites the dust.

  • Janet Singer

    This post made me smile, as facing our fears is a big part of what my upcoming book (Overcoming OCD: A Journey to Recovery) is about. Every time I hesitated to either start a blog, network, or move forward in any other way, I thought of what my son did to overcome severe OCD, and I was propelled forward. I guess you could say he inspired me.

  • Meghan Ward

    Jessica, I love the sound of this, but in practice, I don't think asking myself why I'm getting up on stage to tell a story without notes is going to make me less nervous. I guess 50% of the reason I do things like that is to become less afraid of doing them.