It’s a common misconception that to be good at networking you have to be good at meeting new people; there’s a lot more to networking than just being comfortable around large crowds. Networking also requires excellent listening skills, and this is why so many introverts are good at it.
But, networking for introverts is a bit more complicated than it is for extroverts as quiet and shy people tend to avoid crowded functions, which by definition is what networking events are. However, because networking is so beneficial to your career, we have compiled a list of tips to help introverts survive networking events and build lasting relationships.
1. Get there early
Networking is easier for introverts if you don’t have to walk into a room full of strangers already engaged in conversation and this is why the golden rule is to get there early. That way you’ll be able to catch people as they get in and talk to them on a one-to-one basis and leave before it starts getting too crowded.
2. Forget about sounding smart
Who doesn’t want to be the person who interrupts conversations to say something brilliant, but very few people - even extroverts - are charismatic enough to do it, and there’s no need to pressure yourself to be that person if you’re not. Stop forcing yourself to steal the spotlight and understand that the most effective business people are those who work on the sidelines. So rather than pushing yourself to come up with smart remarks, simply learn to smile, extend your hand and introduce yourself.
3. Don’t force yourself to talk
Similarly, you don’t have to force yourself to talk more than you feel comfortable doing. If you’re the sort of person who’s better at listening than speaking that’s fine as long as you are a good listener. Just make sure that you’re paying attention to what other people are saying so that when you follow up the next day you’ll have something meaningful to talk about.
4. Take time between talking to people
Talking to different people about work can be overwhelming, and it can be even more so when you’re an introvert so rather than pushing yourself to talk to more and more people, simply take breaks between conversations. Head to the bar for a refill or step into the bathroom for a while, whatever you do, give yourself a couple of minutes to relax and release the stress.
5. Prepare a few questions
A good tip for introverts is to have some conversation topics and questions prepared ahead of time. You can use these to avoid awkward silences and start conversations. So, instead of trying to engage in small talk - which introverts usually hate - you can ask questions about their jobs and work, like for example, ‘what’s the most recent success your company’s had’.
6. Find a networking buddy
You’d be surprised at how much easier this type of function is if you have a support system or buddy. Not only would you be more open to attending networking events, but you’d also be more open to starting conversations with people you’ve never met before, as well as stay longer. But, it’s important to beware that having a networking buddy can also lead to isolation, so avoid staying too close to your buddy throughout the night as this might discourage other introverts from talking to you.
7. Set goals
Knowing what you want to get out of every networking event is important, especially when you’re an introvert who finds it hard to attend them. Think of what you can get out of it beforehand and then set a goal for the night. It could be talking to two random people, or it could be introducing yourself to one specific person. Whatever your goal, it’s important to stick to it and to make sure that you have succeeded in achieving it before you leave. Bear in mind that the smaller the goals you set the more likely it is that you will achieve them.
8. Help someone who looks more scared than you
According to studies, there’s at least one introvert for every three people you meet. In terms of networking, this means that you’re not the only one having a hard time attending events and introducing yourself to people. So, rather than trying to figure out why you went to an event in the first place, look for another introvert who’s more scared than you and be their guide. This will allow you to meet new people and also help someone at the same time.
9. Ask a lot of questions
Many introverts hate talking about themselves and being the focus, so what you can do to avoid that is to ask other people a lot of questions about their work and themselves. Apart from giving extroverts the chance to do what they love the most, be in the spotlight, you’ll also be gaining valuable information about them which you can use to follow up the next day.
10. Start conversations with ‘So, what brings you here?’
It might seem a bit cliché but it’s a great ice-breaker, and it gets other people to start talking about themselves which can allow you to shift the focus to them. However, the best things about this question is that it helps you avoid awkward silences which are inevitable when starting a conversation with weather or traffic observations.
11. Practise your elevator pitch
No matter how much you want to avoid talking and being in the spotlight, there’s simply no way to do it. People will want to find out more about you and being unable to explain who you are, and what you can do, will be seen as weakness, which is something you definitely don’t want. Prepare your elevator pitch and make sure that it sounds natural.
12. Think of how you can help everyone you meet
You’ve probably heard that networking shouldn’t just be about how other people can help you, but how you can help them as well. To do that though, you’ll need to pay close attention when you’re speaking to someone to identify their needs. Introverts are famously good at listening to people and thinking, so why not make the most of this exceptional skill by listing ways you can help people while they are talking to you?
13. Don’t RSVP to events too often
Apart from helping you save some money, this strategy is also essential if you’re an introvert who gets easily overwhelmed. There are always a lot people, as well as noise and lights, so why not avoid that feeling by not going to too many events. After all, you shouldn’t only try to engage with other professionals via networking events; you should also try to contact them online.
14. Plan your own events
It’s worth mentioning that planning small networking events can be extremely beneficial to your career. In fact, one can gain a lot more via one on one coffee dates or intimate dinner parties. Find someone you want to connect with online and ask them if they’d like to meet you for a quick lunch or something similar. Putting a time-frame on your event will help you feel more at ease as well.
15. Ask for introductions
Online networking is now an important component of successful networking and should be performed by all employees. If you are not the sort of person who likes to contact strangers then you can always go through your friends’ Linkedin accounts and ask them to introduce you to people who can be helpful to your career.
16. Get the list of attendees in advance
As preparing is crucial for introverts, it’s worth trying to get the list of attendees to an event in advance. This will allow you to prepare yourself for who you are going to meet and have some questions or topics you’d like to discuss with them ready.
17. Meet your Linkedin connections in person
It’s worth pointing out that making connections over Linkedin is not enough. To strengthen the bond and get someone to want to help you boost your career prospects, you need to connect with them on a personal level as well. So, pluck up the courage and ask your connections to meet with you in person. It will be extremely rewarding.
Many people tend to focus on networking when they have something to gain, like for example when they’re looking for a new job or starting their own business. But as networking can be quite challenging for introverts, it’s important to practise your skills before you need it. So, attend events and network on Linkedin even if you have no career changes coming up as this will help make it easier when you do need it.
19. Take an active role in the event
Although it may seem counter-intuitive to be in the spotlight when you’re an introvert, it can help you get through an event easier. Giving a speech, for example, will make it easier for you to meet new people as they’ll already know you and introducing yourself won’t be an issue.
20. Plan an early exit
One of the most intimidating thoughts is knowing that you’ll need to spend the entire night introducing yourself to a room full of strangers, but what if it wasn’t the entire night? Planning an early exit, like leave after half an hour or after one hour can help make things more bearable, and if you find yourself enjoying the event, you can always stay for longer.
Networking for introverts is not an impossible feat. It simply requires a few tricks that will allow you to feel more at ease to focus on making the connections that you’re interested in making.
Are you an introvert? Do you find networking hard? Let me know in the comment section below.