November 14th, 2016
Tips, Tools and Tutorials
As an introvert in the working world, you’ve likely come across a time (or few) where you’re in the middle of a large group of people that you know you should engage with, but you just feel frozen. Whether networking is a part of your job or it’s simply something you know would be good for you, making connections at these events takes an intentional effort for us introverts. To avoid sweaty palms, regretful conversations, and self-doubt at your next networking event, try out some of the tips and tricks I use. I bet you’ll come out of your next event with a few more business cards and a smile on your face!
Social media, despite the name, can be an introvert’s best friend. By removing the anxiety of face-to-face contact, you might find it a lot easier to reach out to a colleague or break the ice with a potential mentor. HBR even suggests that you check sites like Twitter or LinkedIn to see who else will be attending the same events as you, and then send them a message to introduce yourself ahead of time. That way, you’ll already be one step ahead once you meet in person. As a bonus, you have much more control over your online presence than you do offline, so try to focus on projecting confidence and smarts from your social media accounts.
It can be tough enough to attend a networking event — but to show up early? That feels even more nerve-wracking. However, that’s exactly what you should do. Imagine walking into an event when it’s already started and seeing groups of people already mingling together and having animated conversations. Breaking into those groups is far more difficult than being one of the first people in the room. Try to get to the networking event a few minutes early — it will seem less intimidating to strike up a conversation with one of your fellow attendees if there isn’t already a full house.
If the thought of having to engage in a long conversation gives you sweaty palms, take heart in the knowledge that you don’t have to talk for ages. In fact, the New York Times advises introverts to have short conversations with as many people as possible — even if it’s just a brief introduction and an exchange of business cards. Then, you can reach out after the event in order to set up a coffee meeting or lunch. As long as you convey how much you wanted to meet someone and how glad you’d be to get in touch, you don’t necessarily need to talk endlessly at the event.
When you’re at a conference, it’s easy to go from one panel to the next, or to set up meetings back to back. Avoid this flurry of activity and book yourself time to be alone and recharge your socializing batteries. If you’re feeling drained after dealing with so many people in a row, then it’s time to step back for a bit. Go for a short walk, take a bathroom break, or grab yourself a coffee (not an alcoholic beverage — liquid courage isn’t always the best idea!). I like to go find an open spot on the perimeter of the event and observe the action for a bit, as if I’m watching a movie. I use this time to take deep breaths, assess the great conversations I’ve had so far, and check-in with myself. Very often, while I’m taking this quick breather, someone else at the event will come up and introduce themselves to me — likely because they were intimidated by the group setting, too — and then just like that, I’m back in the swing of things.
One of the big reasons why introverts have a hard time networking is that they feel they can’t compete with all the A-type extroverts who control the conversations. Yet if you flip the script, you might be able to see your introvert nature as a positive rather than a negative. HBR has a good way of looking at it: “Introversion is simply a preference for the inner world of ideas because this is where we get our energy. By understanding and accepting this preference, introverts can optimize time spent with their ideas to refine them and recharge.” A networking event is prime territory to explain these ideas to others and get feedback — preferably in one-on-one situations as opposed to group discussions. It’s all about having the innate knowledge that you do have something to offer to the conversation.
The business world may appear to prize extroverts over introverts, but don’t forget that you also have plenty of ideas to contribute. Although networking events may not be your natural environment, if you can play to your strengths as an introvert, you should be able to come away with new acquaintances. Just be sure to take some time for yourself, and you might even find yourself being glad for the benefits of your introvert nature.
How do you successfully network as an introvert? Tell us in the comments.
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