Some professionals love to meet up and say hi. They enjoy attending events and working in a room, and they seem to be natural contacts. I am NOT one of these people. I’m a classic, textbook, introvert who, despite knowing the importance of networking, still finds it challenging at times. Since networking is not easy for me, I understand the tests of trying to network as an introvert. In fact, introvert networking tips have become one of the most popular topics in my workshops.
Experts tell us that between 70 and 85 percent of jobs are filled through networks. It is a bit more difficult to obtain statistics for entrepreneurs. However, we know that if the “know, like, trust” business rule is maintained, networking is key for business owners as well. So what can introverts do to improve in this crucial area?
Do your homework. Nothing is as uncomfortable for an introvert as walking into a room full of strangers. In the past, you may have waited for someone you knew to introduce you to the room, or you may have just stood like a stone at the snack table. Technology, and social media in particular, has leveled the playing field a bit for introverts. We can research the venue, read the profiles of the organizers and sometimes other attendees, and even engage in online conversations before the event. This takes something out of that room full of strange feelings.
Be selective. Since networking drains the energy of introverts, don’t try to attend every event in your city. You only have a limited amount of energy and calendar space before you need alone time to regroup, so choose where to go. Choose groups and events with a stellar reputation. Choose organizations that give you a lot of information online [See Do Your Homework above]. Target crowds that are most likely to contain your ideal customer or key people in your industry. Evaluate the events and do not return to places that make you feel uncomfortable or that make you feel like you’ve wasted your time.
Associate. A networking partner can be helpful regardless of your personality. From helping you find a place to park to reminding you to keep business cards in your pocket, a networking partner makes sense. If you’re outgoing, making friends to network only adds to the socializing and fun. If you’re an introvert, your networking partner provides support, a conversation assistant, and worst-case scenario, someone to read your signals and get you out the door if needed. For introverts who are really uncomfortable with networking, a trusted partner provides them with someone to practice with before events and someone to help them learn to break the ice and participate in a crowded environment.
Recover and reward yourself. As an introvert, you know that you need alone time to recover after a stressful social situation. You should incorporate this into your schedule on a regular basis. Also, after high-risk or stressful networking events, reward yourself with a favorite activity. Books, video games, or a movie night on your own are excellent treats for the introverted professional.
As an introvert, you can be an effective network worker, without feeling miserable. The key is to build on your strengths and be aware of your own needs. Introverts are good listeners and really shine in one-on-one interactions, so don’t try to work across the room. Instead, have some high-quality conversations. Introverts excel at reading body language and other social cues; we spend a lot of time looking at people. Use this ability to connect beyond the “Hello … here’s my card …” type of exchanges. Being known as an attentive listener who really works to build genuine relationships will become part of your brand. This will eventually have others looking for you at events and further alleviate some of that networking pressure.
Some final tips:
Get there early – the event host will likely ask for your help with final details and introduce you to the first few attendees.
Ask questions about what the other person does, likes, or hopes to accomplish.
Have a confidence-building routine before networking. Deep breathing, “power poses,” or a few minutes of mirror talk can make all the difference.