If you’re like me, a bonafide introvert, the mere thought of walking into a room and chit-chatting with strangers makes you anxious. But when I realized I couldn’t hide from networking any longer, I decided to face my fears.
I didn’t go at it blindly though. Instead, I developed a plan that allowed me to conquer networking events without overwhelming myself.
Keep reading below for 5 Networking Hacks for Introverts that I hope will help you too.
Ready? Let’s go.
Plan Your Weekly Events.
I’ve found that one of the worst things you can do as an introvert is to attempt networking without a plan. Trying to make new connections on the fly is a poor choice because you’ll likely choose your favorite book over any event.
The solution? Plot your excursions. Chose one (or two) events to attend each week and put them on your calendar. If there happens to be a paid registration, go ahead and pay to seal the deal. Most of us value our dollars enough that we’d prefer to face our introverted fears rather than to let money go to waste. Once you’ve scheduled your events for the week, you’ll feel your anxiety start to quell.
Know Before You Go.
It can be difficult for introverts to show up to a place without knowing who will be there or what to expect. Luckily, more and more events are starting to publish event overviews and a registration roster that lists attendees. Review this information at least a day or two prior to the event. It will help to shape your expectations by providing insight into how large a crowd is attending and who is in that crowd. If you get the option to have your registration published, do it.
Choose One Person of Contact
This is applicable whether there is an open registration list or not. If the list is available, you can decide beforehand. If it’s not, you can simply wait until you arrive and “feel the room”. Take note of who is there that you’d like to know better. Take note of body language. Who looks interested or better yet, interesting?
Relieve some of the pressure of “networking” by choosing to “have a conversation” with one person.
The conversation doesn’t necessarily have to be about business or your professional life but could be about a book, the weather, the event itself, or anything in between.
If you’re wondering whether to initiate a conversation or wait for someone to speak to you, I’d say initiate. It can be freeing and empowering to be proactive. One way to initiate conversation is with a sincere compliment or a question. Either way, people typically respond positively. And because you might be better at listening in these types of environments rather than chatting about yourself, ask a lot of questions. Again, no one seems to mind.
After you’ve met your one contact quota, feel free to leave the event. The goal isn’t to meet the most people at a single event. You’re focused on making quality connections and that takes time. Don’t feel pressured to stay once you’ve accomplished your goal.
Follow Up and Ask for Coffee or a Lunch Meeting.
If you happen to form a genuine connection with that special someone (this WILL NOT happen at every event so don’t try to force it) feel free to follow up with an email and ask for a coffee or lunch meeting. If the goal is to form relationships, this will be an opportunity to further connect in a more intimate, non-threatening setting.
But there’s a rule: no propositioning of any kind. People don’t want to be invited out for a sales meeting under the guise of a friendly coffee date. And honestly, doing that is tacky and liable to leave a poor impression. It might also put a ding on your reputation.
Keep Your Business Cards to Yo’ self.
This one is actually for everyone, introverted or not. It may seem counterintuitive to the concept of networking, but I suggest keeping your business cards to yourself. Only give one when asked.
Contrary to seemingly popular belief, just because a person shows interest in you doesn’t mean they will be interested in your organization, products, or services. Perhaps they simply find you interesting and that’s okay.
If a person asks for your card, they are more probable to follow up for one reason or another. If they don’t, and you shove it in their faces, your card just may find its way to the nearest trash bin.
Another point to keep in mind is that not every person you meet at a networking event is a member of your target demographic so there really is no need to pass out business cards all willy-nilly. If someone is interested, they’ll let you know. Otherwise, keep it moving.
Following these hacks really helped me to navigate networking strategically and comfortably. I hope they’ll do the same for you. Still have questions? Drop a note here.
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