Networking is an important business tool. It’s a vital way for you to make connections and build relationships with people who will support you and your business goals. That sounds all fine and good, yeah sure talk to people, make friends, grow your business. Sounds easy enough. But what do you do if you’re like me, an introvert who actually has to network? You utilize these tips to be more relaxed, comfortable approachable in these socially awkward environments to make networking as an introvert better.
You know how you prepare for an interview? Networking as an introvert isn’t too much different. You’ll be speaking about yourself. Seeing if this environment is a good fit for you and what type of professionals will be attending can help prepare you. Practicing a set of questions before heading to the event can make it better. “How did you get started in your career?” or “What are you passionate about?” Thinking about what you want to learn about those at the event can help create questions to ask the individuals there to see how you can make a genuine connection.
Create networking that you like:
Networking as an introvert can be even more difficult if you don’t seek out events that resonate with your comfortability. Decide what kind of networking you are okay with. I hate being at big events where I don’t know people, and it’s up to me to mingle around a meet, someone. I know, from past experience, that I’ll end up sitting by myself somewhere or hiding in a corner somewhere. Then I’ll leave after 15 minutes and drive home in my pool of self-pity. So I typically do not go to those events. I know it’s not going to serve me. So what’s the point in spending the time and energy. But I can feel comfortable in a small group, or in situations where there is an order of events. Events, where we’ll have something else to focus on besides just open networking, are great for me. As a result, I typically stick with networking environments that allow me to make longer and deeper connections with a smaller group of people. Maybe you don’t dislike networking but the type of networking you’re participating in.
Focus on Quality, not quantity:
Okay so you may not speak to as many people like an extrovert but you can focus on creating valuable connections. Speaking to someone and truly honing in on who they are and if they’ll be an important resource to you and vice versa leads to a valuable connection. Not to mention, when you follow up you won’t be anxious because you were able to dig deeper versus simply scratching the surface with small talk. If you’re able to research some of the key attendees of the event that you really want to make a connection with. Check their Linkedin for information on their professional background which can give you an edgy topic to talk about in person. Don’t be afraid to add them as a connection too!
Speaking of digging deeper, show interest after the event by reaching out. Maybe you and your contact have been wanting to try that new Italian spot in the neighborhood. Email or text them and make plans to meet up again at a later date to check-in since the last time you spoke. Making a connection beyond just what someone does or can do for you is very important in building lasting relationships. Find out what they like, or like to do and include this in your follow up meeting.
Put your introvert skills to work:
Introverts are generally known to be quiet and not particularly talkative. That means we’re really good listeners. And we typically WANT to know more about a person besides where they grew up and how they got into their industry. So put those skills to work and LISTEN to what other people are talking about. This will help you discover information that can build a genuine business connection. Don’t be afraid to be yourself. Listen more than you talk about how excited you’re to meet them. Let them speak and say who they are.
Bring A friend:
Maybe your friend is an extrovert. Maybe they aren’t. Bringing a friend can help get you out of your shell. They can make the situation less nerve-wracking when networking as an introvert. Maybe they can spark the conversations and you continue them. Everyone loves a good wing-man (or woman!). Having a support system there can make networking that much easier. Make it a friendly competition, whoever gets the most business cards at the end of the night buys the other a drink!
And if all else fails( which it won’t!) you can lower your inhibitions by taking a shot before stepping into the event. That will surely help you with networking as an introvert. I’m joking. Though I’m certain implementing one of these acts will allow you to get through the next networking event successfully.