How to talk to strangers

Jul 01 2013

We’ve all been assured since we stepped into the Reese News Lab that we would have to step outside of our comfort zones.

Well, marketing plans are hard, and spreadsheets are harder, but what’s really done it for me is this: talking to strangers. I’m terrified of talking to strangers. I go into fight-or-flight mode, and I always choose flight. Recently, though, there’s been a barrage of new people to talk to, and I’ve learned something: fake it ‘til you make it is a real and important technique in life.

I’ve been trying out a fake-me that isn’t afraid at all to talk to strangers. Fake-me will ask any questions. Fake-me can sell you anything. But to get into the fake-me mindset, I have to follow a few guidelines:

1. Know the person you’re talking to.
Yeah, so you’ve never met before. But the Internet is a powerful tool. Look up the person you’re calling or Skyping or meeting before you ever meet them. Get a feel for who they are, what they’ve accomplished, or even what they’ve failed. This will help you figure out what you want to get from the meeting and what they might expect from the meeting.

2. Know what you’re talking about.
Research, research, research. Make a list of everything you want to ask or discuss. See which questions you can answer for yourself, because the more you know, the better you know what to ask. Also, you can spend your meeting feeling smart and efficient, and confidence is a great boost.

3. Armed with your newfound knowledge, make a script.
Don’t just know what you want to say, know exactly how you want to say it. Anticipate different responses. Then practice what you’re going to say. As a group, we practiced over and over again before our pitches. It feels a little ridiculous at first, but being able to pitch your product in your sleep makes things so, so much easier.

4. Realize that it’ll be okay if they hate you.
They’re strangers. You’ll probably never see or hear from them again.

5. Take deep breaths and do something that makes you happy.
Instead of stressing up until the start of the meeting, take a moment for yourself. You already know what’s coming next, and you can do it in your sleep. Don’t even worry about it. Take a breath, listen to some pump-up music and relax for a second. You can do it.

And finally, remember that you’re all just people. They’re not super-human, and they don’t expect you to be either. Reach for the you that you want to be, but don’t worry if things don’t go exactly as expected. It’s not a fight-or-flight emergency, it’s just a perfectly normal human experience.

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