Emailing, texting, calling, video meetings, in-person events – all different ways to communicate – and to Gen Zers, all of them feel just as “real” as a handshake.
The line between our public “in-real-life” selves and our digital personas has blurred, and today our professional and personal identities are a hybrid: Part online, and part in-person.
So how do professionals best represent themselves in this rapidly changing world?
The key is authenticity.
How to Build an Authentic Business Network
Let’s start with building an authentic online persona which, for some, may be the more difficult part of the “hybrid identity” equation – while others may struggle with the in-person side of things. Either way, there are solutions for all and Popl is here to help!
Here are some tips to help you build and maintain an authentic online identity.
Authentic Online Persona
Think About Your Values
Before you start creating your online presence, you need a clear understanding of your core values and beliefs. This will help you make informed decisions about the content you share and the tone you use online. You don’t necessarily need to project or even explicitly state your belief, show them through your work and actions and they will shine through.
Transparency is key to building trust and credibility online. Be open and honest about your experiences, skills, and qualifications. If you have limitations or areas you're still learning, be upfront about that too.
Personal transparency is more than just a buzzword, it’s an increasingly important practice that’s essential to an authentic online identity. Personal transparency is just another way of saying, portraying yourself in an honest way. Why is becoming increasingly important? Several reasons, including:
- Digital IQ: The average internet user today is miles ahead of even just a few years ago. Whether on social media, Google, or just shuffling through emails, people today have developed an intuition about what is real and “fake” online – and the taste for “fake” has significantly faded. Gen Zers and other internet users born in the digital age want realness, not just perfectly polished representations.
- Trust: In an era where information is readily available, it's essential to establish trust with others online. Transparency helps build trust and credibility, as people are more likely to believe what they see and hear if it's genuine and honest.
- Community Building: In a world where we are becoming more connected online, personal transparency helps build a sense of community and fosters meaningful relationships. People are more likely to engage with individuals who are open and transparent about their experiences and beliefs.
- Increased Competition: With so many people online, it's becoming increasingly important to differentiate yourself from others and stand out from the crowd. Personal transparency can help you establish your unique voice and set you apart from others.
- Social Responsibility: With the rise of social media, there is a growing awareness of the impact our online presence can have on others. Personal transparency helps us take responsibility for our online behavior and ensures that we are not spreading misinformation or engaging in harmful behavior.
Show Your Personality
Don't be afraid to let your personality shine through in your online interactions. Whether it's through your writing style, choice of words, or the content you share, make sure it represents who you are.
Turn Your (True) Personal History Into an Interesting Story
Share your story: Sharing your personal story and experiences can help others connect with you on a deeper level and understand where you're coming from.
Here are some tips to help you tell a captivating story:
- Start with a hook: Grab the audience's attention from the beginning by starting with a captivating introduction. It could be a surprising fact, a personal experience, or a thought-provoking question.
- Make it personal: Personal stories are more engaging than general or impersonal ones. Share your experiences, struggles, and triumphs to connect with your audience and make your story more relatable.
- Show, don't tell: Instead of simply telling the audience what happened, try to show them through descriptive details, emotions, and vivid imagery. This helps create a more immersive and engaging experience for the listener.
- Use humor: Humor can be a powerful tool for engaging your audience. If appropriate, try to incorporate humor into your story to lighten the mood and keep the audience engaged.
- Emphasize the message: Every story should have a message or lesson. Emphasize the message or take-away from your story to make it more meaningful and impactful.
- Practice: The more you practice telling your story, the more comfortable and confident you'll become. Try telling your story to different groups of people, and take note of what works and what doesn't.
- Keep it concise: A well-crafted, concise story is more engaging than a long and rambling one. Try to keep your story focused and to the point, and avoid going off on tangents.
Share, Yes…Overshare, No
It's important to maintain a balance between being authentic and maintaining your privacy. Avoid oversharing personal information or sensitive details about your life. This is also important because, remember, that people like to meet each other and learn about each other in a gradual way. You don’t need to put you FULL self out there all at once, or try to capture everything you care about in your bio. Simply express yourself gradually and your online identity will emerge in a natural way.
Engage With Others in a Positive Way
Engaging with your friends, family, and acquaintances in a positive way. Offer genuine, encouraging thoughts, and share interesting information. Be the change you want to see online, and you’ll be amazed at the good things (professional opportunities and otherwise) that start flowing your way.
Authentic In-Person Persona
Part two (or some would say part one) of your personal and professional identity is how you represent yourself in-person. Physical interactions are more complex than online – built into them are things like the environment where you’re meeting people, your body language, whether or not you’re nervous (how to network with social anxiety), and many other subtle cues that the human brain picks up on automatically. Thinking about each element of in-person networking in a vacuum is a mistake that leads to the opposite of authenticity and which, ultimately, will not help you. When in-person networking, focus simply on two things: 1) Being calm, and 2) Being kind. If you are calm and kind it will be much more likely that people will respond to you positively and then, of course, your authentic personality will come out and, as that happens, people will respond more positively, and the snowball is rolling!
In addition to calmness and kindness, here are some other useful tips for business networking at in-person events, conferences, and tradeshows:
Share Your Passions
Talk about what excites and motivates you, and let others know what you stand for. This will help others get to know the real you and understand what makes you tick. You don’t always need to talk negatively about things, remember that if you start conversations in a positive direction most of the time people will follow. If not, try again.
Simply showing your interest in others by asking open-ended questions is one of the best ways to connect.to learn more about others and their experiences. This will help you understand their perspectives and interests and can lead to deeper and more meaningful conversations.
Don’t Oversell Yourself
Don't be too aggressive in trying to promote yourself or your products. Instead, focus on building relationships and creating connections that can lead to mutually beneficial opportunities in the future.
Building an Authentic Business Network
Congratulations, you’re well on your way to building an authentic, and authentically valuable business network. More than anything, remember: Be kind, and be calm.
Finally, when it comes to networking tools, are you using a digital business card? Popl’s digital business cards give you a way to seamlessly tie together your online and offline personas and to share contact info with new connections. Upgrade your business networking game with a Popl digital business card.
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