Networking events can be intimidating for even the most outgoing professionals. For introverts, even more so. Striking up conversations with strangers in an effort to build professional relationships is daunting. It may seem like being the life of the party is the only way to have positive networking outcomes, but that’s not the case. Introverts are so much more than their shy wallflower stereotypes. In fact, the shy introvert is a total misconception—introversion is different from shyness. Contrary to popular belief, introverts are often better at fueling connectivity than their extroverted counterparts. They are stellar listeners and make great employees. As an introvert, your dislike of small talk helps you create more meaningful social interactions. By focusing on quality over quantity, you may be able to build stronger connections in your networking efforts than many extroverts.
How? Simply by being yourself.
If you are still unsure, or maybe even scared of networking events, this is your go-to guide on networking for introverts:[bctt tweet="#Networking for #Introverts: A Survival Guide by @dailykaileigh"]
How to prepare for a networking event:
Get in the right mindset. Take the time to mentally prepare yourself. Please know that you are not bothering people. Remind yourself that people come to networking events to network, so it’s not strange to walk up to a new person and introduce yourself. They’re hoping that you will.
Your coworkers and fellow event attendees want to learn about you. It helps if you have a colleague introduce you to someone you want to speak to. This can serve as a common interest that will aid in your conversation.
You’ll discover a wealth of resources by reading Susan Cain’s Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking. With historic and literary evidence, Cain’s book spells out what the true merits are in being an introvert. If you’re looking for a crash course in advice for introverts, Cain also has a passionate TED talk. With Cain's points in mind, networking for introverts becomes a lot easier.[bctt tweet="Quiet by @susancain spells out the true merits of being an #introvert, says @dailykaileigh"]
Plan your networking goals. An introvert’s superpower at networking events is that they network with purpose. Whereas some extroverted types focus purely on meeting as many people as possible and being the life of the party, introverts tend to focus on meaningful outcomes. Focusing on clear goals means that you’ll walk away having taken real value from the experience. You should be able to answer this main question: What do I want to leave this event with? Write your answers out on paper if you need to. These goals should not be transactional, such as “collect x number of business cards.” Your objectives can also be simple. Some possible answers could be:
- Find two people who are doing something interesting who I want to follow-up with afterward
- Talk to X number of people
- Find out who else you should talk to in order to learn about *fill in the blank*
If you hold yourself accountable for your clear objectives, you'll walk away having taken real value from the experience.[bctt tweet="Plan non-transactional goals for a successful #networkingevent, says @dailykaileigh"]
Do some research. It may help you feel more at ease if you find out who will be there ahead of time. If you can get your hands on an attendance list (Eventbrite sometimes publishes the RSVP’s on the event page), reach out to some people. It can be comforting to know for certain that you’ll be meeting someone there. Reach out via email or LinkedIn and give your reason for wanting to connect. See if you share common interests.
Call on a wingman. Bring a buddy to the event with you. You can work the room together, introducing one another and jumping in to the rescue in the event of any awkward silences.
How to network as an introvert at an event:
Remember when I said to prepare? Forget it. Your elevator pitch isn’t a set-in-stone script, it’s your story, and you should know it by heart. Let your key points come across naturally. Focus on one-on-one conversation. Ask questions. Be engaged. Most importantly, listen. The things you are chatting about now could help you develop this relationship down the line.
Breaking the ice. Undoubtedly, the most difficult part of networking is starting a conversation. How to break the ice? The best way to get someone to talk is to ask them an open-ended question. You could ask what they enjoy the most about their job. You can skip the small talk and ease your way into a meaningful conversation by asking for advice. For example, you could ask someone if they’ve attended an event similar to the one you’re currently at and what they found most helpful about it. You could also ask what advice they would give to someone who wants to pursue a career like their own. [bctt tweet="#Breaktheice by asking open-ended questions, says @dailykaileigh #introvert #networking"]
Smile. People want to talk to happy people. Positivity begets positivity. If you are changing careers, avoid talking smack about your current/old company. Instead, focus on what you’ve learned from your experience there and what you are seeking in your next opportunities. Honesty is important, but so is being optimistic.
Be engaged in the conversation. Keep eye contact and avoid fiddling too much. This will help you stay focused on the conversation. They are also non-verbal cues to the people around you that you are interested in the conversation. Introverts are naturally great listeners, so show that you are genuinely engaged in the conversation. People love to talk about themselves—ask more than you answer. If you get a business card, write on the back of it any keywords or a summary of the conversation you had. Later, when you reach out to connect with them via email or LinkedIn, you’ll be glad for the reminder.
Focus on quality, not quantity. This has become a motto in my life. Talk to a few new people and make quality connections. There’s no need to run around and shake every hand in the room. The real connections you are making are far more valuable than small talk. Be easy on yourself and engage in few things. It’s okay to head to the snack table, but don’t spend all night there. That bowl of pretzels won’t land you your next job.
Follow-up after networking. Nurture your new relationships by reconnecting online. If you got business cards, search for these people on LinkedIn or send them an email. Reference key talking points from your conversation. Following-up helps to keep you on your connection’s radar, which could potentially lead to an opportunity down the line. [bctt tweet="Post #networking tip: Nurture new relationships by reconnecting online @dailykaileigh #introverts"]
Reflect. If you are beating yourself up over something that happened during the event, understand that social interactions are never perfect. In fact, the things you may be stressing about can be looked at in a lighthearted manner. Most likely, the other person doesn’t even remember. Forget about it and move forward. In the unlikely event it was a social faux pas, then send an apology when you connect. I promise you, it’ll get easier over time. The more you practice, the more you’ll grow. Smile, and learn.