If you’re an introvert, you have probably been wrongly accused of being someone who doesn’t like others, someone who has nothing to say, or someone who needs somebody else to speak for them.
Not the typical qualities you would think would make a good networker.
It’s is often true that introverts find networking events difficult, and rather intimidating. They find it hard to be open and meet new people; small talk doesn’t come easy to them and they find it hard to build a rapport with someone.
However, introverts are often great listeners and can make close relationships, as they tend to be more interested in other people than talking about themselves. This means they are more than capable of dealing with a networking event. But because they feel uncomfortable, they usually avoid these occasions completely.
Meeting new people might be a crucial element of your job, one that cannot be avoided. But if you’re an introvert, how can you feel comfortable entering a big room full of strangers? How can you make the most of a networking event?
Read on to find out our introvert’s guide to business networking.
How to prepare for a networking event
Step 1: Make online connections beforehand
Connecting with people online can make you less nervous for when you come to meet them in person. This can be done on social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. When it comes to the actual event, seeing a familiar face can make meeting them much less daunting, and you will feel more comfortable to introduce yourself.
Step 2: Get there early
Introverts often feel anxious because they feel left out and not part of the “in crowd”, especially if they don’t know anybody. When you get there early, you can be one of the first people to get to know people when they arrive.
Stefan Thomas, author of Networking for Dummies and self-confessed introvert says you should get to a networking event so you’re one of the first people there. He said: “It is more intimidating to walk in later when conversations and groups have already formed and you find yourself having to break into them.”
Step 3: Prepare icebreakers and questions
If you invest some time preparing a few questions to ask those who you meet at networking events, you avoid feeling put on the spot and stuck for words. Just a few simple questions such as “What are your career goals?” and “How did you get started in your career?” are easy questions that can be asked to anyone. You can also think about what you are going to share about yourself, such as interests, as this means you aren’t relying on someone else to lead the conversation.
Simple networking icebreakers such as “Where did you travel from today?” can also be used to ease into a conversation.
How to deal with nerves during a business networking event
Getting a hold of your nerves can be difficult if you are an introvert, but there a few things you can do to settle them. Firstly, why not go with a friend? If it makes you feel more comfortable, you could easily bring a friend who will ease your worries but let you do your thing at the same time. You can discuss what you are going to do or who you are going to talk to beforehand, so you don’t work yourself up before the event begins.
It’s also useful to go into a networking event with a goal in mind. This can be something as simple as getting five business cards by the end. Create a reward for yourself once you have achieved this goal, as this will make you feel much more confidence and encourage you to go through with it again.
Finally, don’t put yourself out if you are starting to feel awkward. If this does happen, take time out or decide that it’s time to leave. If you overdo it and have a bad experience, you are less likely to want to do it again. Take time to reflect and a couple of breaths to keep yourself on track.
What to do after a networking event
Introverts tend to overthink things to a magnified level, which can cause stress and anxiety. Once you have left the event, try to leave your conversations and networking attempts at the door, and separate them emotionally. If someone didn’t respond as well as you hoped, don’t focus on it, just learn from it and focus on what you can do to improve in the future.
If you have made a strong connection, which often happens, try to maintain this connection, as it could evolve into a solid relationship. If you have their business card, make sure you give them an email, and let them know you enjoyed emailing them.
Introverts may not be the most outgoing of people, and they certainly have to work harder at networking events then others due to their nervousness and difficultly speaking to new people. But if you put yourself out there and leave your anxiety at the door, introverts can be great networkers and create strong relationships that last long into the future.
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