Networking Tips for Introverts
Networking can be awkward, even for the most outgoing of us. So what is a introvert supposed to do? The truth is you don't need to be someone who loves working a room to be good at making connections. In fact, shy or introverted people tend to have good listening skills, which makes them great conversationalists. One of the surest strategies to fight off networking jitters is to be prepared. Going into an event or opportunity with an arsenal of conversation techniques will make even the most reluctant networker feel more confident and relaxed.
The Art of Conversation
The best way to begin a networking conversation is to think of it like a friendly, informal interview. For example, saying "What brings you to this event?" is a great icebreaker, and creates an opportunity to learn a bit about your conversation partner. Listen intently to what is being shared with you, and then allow the other person to ask you questions in return. Even if you are uncomfortable talking about yourself, make sure you answer questions thoroughly and thoughtfully.
It's a good idea to have a "bumper sticker" created to describe your work. This is one line that succinctly describes what you do. You will likely have to say this line over and over, so be sure you like how it sounds, and that it truly represents your work.
When others are describing what they do, don't be afraid to ask questions that might seem silly. Saying, "I am afraid I don't know anything about your work, can you explain it to me?" only makes you appear interested and genuine. And be sure to always wrap up a conversation thanking someone for his or her time, and expressing some admiration.
Secrets to Painless Networking
Once you have created your "bumper sticker" and practiced your conversation skills with a friend or in the mirror, you are ready to face the world of networking. The tips below will help make the process as painless as possible.
· Pick a venue that best fits your personality. Small gatherings can be less intimidating for those who are nervous in crowds, for example.
· Attend an event that includes content like a speaker or a panel, so you have a break from face-to-face conversation and a new topic to converse around.
· Ask your online contacts if any of them are attending the same event. It is easier to approach someone you recognize.
· Arrive at events early and introduce yourself to an organizer—even offer to help set up. Next ask who will be attending that will be valuable to meet.
· Go to more than one meeting of the same group. Unfamiliar faces become less intimidating the second, third and fourth time around.
· Consider volunteering to work the registration table at events. You will get a chance to see who is attending and speak to them for a moment or two—they will no longer be strangers.
· Give yourself a reasonable goal for each event, such as connecting with three new people or following up with a couple people you met at the last event.
· Ask your new connections who they were looking to meet. If you can help introduce them to someone they would like to meet, you will become a valuable connection.
· Carry your networking/business cards in your pocket, ready to hand out at the right moment. When someone gives you a card, read it immediately so you can remember faces with names. Be sure to stash those cards in a different pocket.
· Consider staying late at events so you can talk one-on-one with panelists, organizers, and other valuable contacts after the crowd has gone home.
Like anything challenging, the more you do it, the easier it gets. With a little practice and a few strategic maneuvers, networking will become much easier. We encourage you to share your networking tips here in the community!