Networking for introverts is a really tough gig especially if you are trying to make connections face to face at a networking event or a work function. It is often seen as the domain of confident extroverts who know how to work a room and love nothing more than to talk about themselves and their achievements. But, the truth is that’s not what networking is all about.
Networking is about building meaningful connections over time that are mutually beneficial.
This in fact takes quite a bit of time and happens over a a few stages not all of which require face to face contact like networking events. So how do you network effectively if you are an introvert?
We run though a series of introvert networking tips below which we really hope will help you, but the main thing to remember is don’t try to be an extrovert. It’s not who you are, it’s way outside your comfort zone and it’s not going to work. Instead, focus on using to your advantage the many great skills introverts tend to have. Introverts tend to be:
- Incredibly self aware
- Great listeners
- Very thoughtful
- Fabulous with details
- Great at learning by observing
Four Introvert Networking Tips You Need To Know:
1. Connect Online First
When you are an introvert, there is nothing more terrifying than walking into a room full of strangers and trying to strike up a conversation. That’s why we recommend taking the first networking step online.
- First, find out as much as you can about the event and get hold of an attendee and speaker list.
- Use LinkedIn and Twitter to connect with as many people as you feel necessary from the attendee and speaker lists.
- Make a list of 2-3 people you would really like to speak to at the upcoming event.
- Consider sending a message to one of these people with a personal comment saying you look forward to meeting them and talking more/finding out more about …..(insert something relevant to your shared industry here)
- First step done
The networking preparation phase should be a relatively easy one for most introverts. It involves thorough research and fine tuning of basic material that can be used at the actual networking event.
- Go back to the attendee and speaker list. Research the people you would like to connect with by checking all their social assets and Googling their name.
- See if you can establish anything you may have in common with them.
- Prepare a very short introduction and practice it.
- Practice your introduction until it feels natural and unforced.
3. Target Friendly Groups
At any networking event, the hardest part for introverts and extroverts too is integrating yourself into an established group or initiating a conversation. If this terrifies you, try the following tactics:
- Arrive early – there is a much better chance people who enter a relatively empty room will come over and start a conversation with you. If the room is full when you arrive and conversations are already in place, it’s up to you to integrate yourself into these conversations which is much harder for an introvert to do.
- Look for others like you – If you see someone alone in a corner who looks like they wish the earth would swallow them up then go talk to them. They are probably an introvert too and would be grateful that someone else made the first move. You never know who they know or how the can help you, it’s not just the confident extroverts that make great networking contacts.
- Look at body language – Target small groups and those who are in pairs. Look for friendly, open body language like smiles, arms not crossed, leaning in and elbows away from the body.
As an introvert, you are a great listener and very emotionally intelligent. Although it may seem counter-intuitive, you need to use these skills to your advantage at every networking event.
- Start by asking those open ended questions you prepared before the event. You can use opening lines like:
- How did you get started in….
- What do you do at ….
- What do you love most about….
- Tel me more about your role at….
- Once they start talking, sit back and listen. Extroverts in particular love to talk about themselves.
- Draw on any facts you learnt from your research to inject occasionally into the conversation.
- Think about the ways you could help these people or if there are any people you know who could help them. Helping others makes you memorable and is a great networking tool.
Yes, networking for introverts is at the very least an uncomfortable process. The thing to remember is that networking at events is just one part of the networking process. The preparation and the follow up can all be done online which is much less threatening.