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HELP! I’m Shy! How to Overcome a Shy Personality at Conference

By Michelle Shocklee

I am naturally shy. I would rather eat worms than talk to people I don’t know. Does that surprise you? Most people would not describe me as shy. A little on the quiet side maybe, but not shy. It’s true though. It goes against my grain to be outgoing and talkative. I’d rather sit in a dark corner and watch the world go by than be out in the spotlight, especially in a large gathering like a writers’ conference.

You too, eh?

So you ask, How have I overcome my shy personality to get to the point of being able to talk to just about anyone, even…GASP!… editors and agents?

First of all, you have to come to the real conclusion that being shy is a waste of time. Truly! Think of how many lost opportunities you’ve had because you were too shy to speak to someone or take part in an activity. I know I can think of plenty.

And what was my big fear?

Being laughed at. Making a mistake. Saying something stupid. All real fears to be sure, but is the worry of making a misstep really worth missing so much life?

Absolutely not!

So, is there hope for a shy person?

Absolutely!

Once you fully appreciate how unproductive–and possibly unfulfilled–you are as a shy person, you can do something about it! And you can do it in time for conference where you will most likely need to talk to editors, agents and fellow writers if you’re going to have a productive and fun conference experience. And trust me, you want to have a fun and productive conference experience! That’s the whole reason you’re going!

Here are some simple tips that I have actually done when preparing to meet new people:

1. Smile! Shy people are notoriously too serious when facing new people and new situations. When we don’t smile we come off as being mad or snobbish, neither of which is usually true. So…SMILE!! A warm smile is a great conversation starter. It is almost always followed by “Hi.”

2. Practice on the grocery store clerk or mailman or stranger at church. Take a deep breath and plunge in! Use cliche conversation starters like, “Wow, it’s hot today, isn’t it?” or something common. Do this every single day! You will be surprised how easy it becomes to talk to strangers.

3. If you plan to pitch a book idea at conference, write down what you are going to say. Then…rehearse, rehearse, rehearse in front of the mirror! Go into the bathroom, close the door (if you have family that might walk in) and…SMILE!…then say, “Hi, my name is so-and-so. It’s so nice to meet you.” Now, you don’t want to memorize your schpeel, but get it down so that you don’t freeze up with nerves. Relax. The person you are talking to will not bite. They will not get up and run away. They will not laugh…unless you want them to because you told a joke. Hey, shy people know jokes, too!

4. Keep in mind that some editors, agents and fellow writers are just as shy as you are! We shy people are not alone, especially at writers’ conferences! Look around for folks who have that “deer in the headlight” expression on their faces. They’ll appreciate a warm smile and a friendly hello and it will give you a little confidence boost knowing you helped a kindred spirit.

5. Pray! Before each agent/editor meeting or each meal where conversation with strangers is a given, pray and ask God to give you courage, peace and joy. Meeting new people doesn’t have to be an unpleasant, scary thing. In fact, it can truly be a blessing!

The ACFW conference is NOT the place to let your shyness win! You will be surrounded by fellow believers and fellow writers, all with the same goal as you: To write for God. Come ready to make new friends and meet new faces you’ll see in heaven someday!

See you in Denver this September! I’ll be the one with the big ol’ smile! ;)

Visit my Blog at: michelleshocklee.blogspot.com

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