What you are about to read is not intended for everyone. It might be useful for those having to spend some time convincing themselves in the necessity of networking prior to attending any event. Yes, networking is natural. However, it frequently can arouse inner protest if you are an introvert. So what is the biggest introverts’ problem in terms of networking? Is it possible, or more importantly, is it necessary to overcome oneself? The fact that there are no completely self-sufficient people living in a kind of exclusive biosphere is obvious even to us – introverts. The best things that happen to us are often associated with other people. Even if a brilliant idea has crossed your mind, one way or another, you’ll need someone’s assistance to bring it into life.
The main issue introvert has with networking is that he takes it as an obligation forcing him to overcome himself every time there is a networking event. I would like to offer you some strategies that I, being an introvert myself, found helpful in the course of reframing networking from obligation into an effective opportunity. They really work.
1. Find out the format of the event beforehand. Keep in mind that extremely noisy and large-scale events lower your chances for success.
2. Rate your chances for building relationships for each particular event. Who would be attending it? Do these people belong to your target audience? After all, it’s always sensible to ask the event planners for the list of invited people.
3. Manage your timetable yourself. If the networking opportunity appears among the number of other invitations, maybe it is reasonable to refuse it in the very beginning. Should you increase the number of networking events, it would lead to major expenses both in terms time and money which would actually exceed the expected possible use they can bring. It is quite possible that your energy will be exhausted before you know it. Are you ready for that?
4. Find the community. Conduct a little intelligence before the event. Find out more about people attending it. It well may be that you will find something in common. Knowing more about possible acquaintances will help you to start a conversation and increase your level of comfort.
5. Leave yourself a right to say “No”. At any moment you find suitable. A lot of networking events are actually a waste of time. If you turn to be the most intelligent and interesting participant, you’d better look for another place to go.
Work A Room.
1. Arrive a little earlier. Yes, introverts tend to subconsciously delay the arrival. However once they come, they find all other guests split in circles which scares the hell out of them. There are always few early-comers at any event who would be more than happy to find someone to have a friendly small talk with. If you become that someone, you will later see other people joining your conversation, and you’ll naturally blend into the group.
2. Take a friend with you. There is a possibility that your friend will know some people you’d like to meet. However try to split up with him once you feel confident enough. Demonstrate openness: people won’t feel comfortable to approach someone standing in the “closed” position. The same is applicable to spouses – try to split up to double the number of acquaintances.
3. Small talk. Easy small talk on professional topics creates trusting emotional context which facilitates further business communication. When introducing yourself, give out your name and sphere of business. It gives your companion an opportunity to ask where exactly you work and leads to easy exchange of business cards.
4. Aloner’s rule. If you find yourself being left alone, don’t hesitate to join another aloner. He is most likely even more embarrassed than you are, so he’s sure to be very grateful. Once your discussion becomes interesting, others are likely to join you.
5. “Homework drafts”. Make sure to have a couple of opening lines for the conversations. It can be “How did you find out about the event?” or “What other events do you plan to attend? Maybe you can recommend some. “ It’s quite appropriate to come up to someone and say: “It’s my first time here. What about you? What do you think of this event?”
6. Expose your problems. The gist of trust between people is based on everyone being human and having troubles rather than being insensitive machines. Remember this rule when you slip up. A phrase like “I always like to leave stains on my tie. It makes its design stand out” will always relieve tension turning your error into a bonus which you will get from the audience or companion of being taken as an easy-going and witty person.
7. Allow yourself to speak impromptu. Make use of your best introvert’s trait which is intuition. You will be pleasantly surprised once you understand that you will subconsciously hit the audience’s mood.
9. Once your conversation is over, tell something like “I wouldn’t want to monopolize you for the whole evening. Others need you as well” and bid a polite good bye. Then cross the room and start conversation with someone else. Distance will stress the fact that you really wanted to speak to someone in particular.
Follow up stage.
Networking meetings are important not for the acquaintances they bring but for the final result which is getting the possible prospects to come to you for business. Jumping to this stage at the very meeting would be perfect. If your new acquaintance comes to the understanding of your services’ necessity on his own, without feeling to be pressured to it, the result is even better. However it is normal if the business communication doesn’t start immediately after being introduced. Then a need for a follow-up stage arises.
Transform the quantity into quality. The number of useful contacts is not an introvert’s strong side. It’s reasonable to make use of the gathered business cards. Email each of your new contacts to remind about yourself. Depending on your agreement at the event, don’t forget to include some useful information to make it look natural. Don’t procrastinate.
Internet-connecting opportunity can sometimes be godsend for the introverts as they are the ones able to make the most of the online networking. However there are some pitfalls here.
1. Number of connections’ chase in the social media is not networking. This form of acquiring internet connections will not bring results as people do not feel any real connection to you. Relax, people you need are also looking for you.
2. Connecting people. Drop the person of interest an email or a message through social media to let him know plainly what use you can bring him or what piece of advice you would like to ask for. Here is an example of what you shouldn’t write: “Hello! What is your favorite book? Thank you in advance for reply.”
Some people do not need to learn networking at all. They possess the natural skill to make new connections. Usually such masterly networkers are extraverts. Nonetheless, introverts are capable of building new connections even better than their fellows-estraverts. Trust me. They just need to find the right approach. One of the possible approaches is described in this article. It all comes down to the following – don’t try to be someone else. Use your advantages and don’t take networking too seriously. In this case your latent sociopathy will evaporate on its own.