How to crack networking despite being an introvert?
Are you an introvert who struggles with the basics of social interactions? Do you feel out of your element when thrust into the spotlight and you’re suddenly the center of attention? For extroverts, networking may be second nature. On the other hand, it can feel way outside your comfort zone for the shy, loners, and introverts. If the thought of networking sends a chill down your spine, I’ve rounded up a couple of tips, some of which play to the strength of your personality type, to lend you a hand. Take a look.
- Set reasonable expectations
Have a reasonable plan to guide you. As I always say, failing to plan is planning to fail. Set out your goals right off the bat, and be sure that they are:
- Clear and concise
- Reasonably achievable
- Focused on quality over quantity
For example, it might be a bit of a tall order to try to collect 30 digital business cards in a night- though completely achievable with today’s wireless contact exchange solutions- if you aren’t a social butterfly. Purpose to make two or three valuable connections instead, and focus on one-on-one networking. This will make you less anxious about attending networking events.
2. Focus more on listening
Less talk, more listening. If you’re an introvert, listening may come naturally to you but there’s a difference between listening and true listening. I’m an innately talkative person, and true listening is a skill that took me quite a long time to master, but I realized that it’s all about:
- Being patient- wait your turn, no interruptions
- Being curious- show interest by asking questions
- Being present- let your body show you want to be there
It also helps to put away any distractions namely gadgets, which you may find your attention unknowingly drifting towards.
3. Avoid using your phone to cope
Introverts often seek refuge in their smartphones whenever faced with uncomfortable social situations, blocking away the crowd and finding relief in the comfort of a virtual wall. However, this can ward off others who may be keen to strike up a conversation with you.
If you’re reliant upon a smart networking platform on your phone, then keep yourself honest by using it just for this purpose. All in all, take the bulls by the horns and try to initiate conversations. It helps to research your prospects & prepare icebreakers beforehand so you can ease into new dialogs.
4. Make contact exchange effortless
Sometimes, touch can feel overly invasive if you’re an introvert and a simple handshake may be anything but. Luckily, in the age of digital handshakes, you can keep physical contact to a minimum with a remote networking platform, through which you can effortlessly:
- Exchange new contacts & digital business cards, contact-free
- Get detailed profiles on new connections
- Take digital notes about who, where, and how you meet
That said, physical contact is an important aspect of IRL networking that you should also practice. Not just with friends, but strangers as well. Stop an unfamiliar co-worker in the office, perhaps, introduce yourself and offer a handshake. Over time, you’ll get the hang of it.
5. Take regular energy breaks
Snack breaks can be especially helpful for reserved personalities. As an introvert, networking events can take their toll on you, sapping you dry to the bones. So aim for a quick meal break including some fats, carbs, and proteins to keep you going. You’d be amazed by what a quick meal can do for your confidence.
However, if you’re already nervous enough as it is, you might want to watch the caffeine or anything else that might elevate your anxiety levels. It goes without saying that anything that might taint your professional image- alcohol, wine, etc.- is a no-no.
6. Pay no attention to that inner voice
Self-doubt is something that not just introverts struggle with but also every networker I know of, including myself. Everyone has that critical inner voice, which can lead to unhealthy networking habits such as:
- Low self-esteem
I have had trouble shutting out that inner voice, but I’ve worked at it and continue to do so every day. I find that our inner voices are a projection of our fears and it helps to distance yourself from the thought. Remember, it’s not fact, it’s just all in your head. Also, practice self-compassion, and make room in your everyday routine for positive affirmation, which can help rewire your conscious.
7. Don’t try to be someone you’re not
Be none other than yourself. If you’re not comfortable being the star of the show, then don’t try to be to avoid winding up in awkward situations and unfamiliar territory. Let your strengths work for you. Put your listening skills to good use and make the most of them. I’ve met many introverts at conferences and seminars who turn out to be extremely successful networkers once they get going.
Also, you’re not the only introvert in attendance, with studies estimating 40% of the population to be introverted. Locating fellow introverts and learning how they cope, among other things, may play to your advantage.
8. Have an agenda to guide you
If you’ve won yourself a meeting with new prospects, working out an agenda beforehand is an excellent idea. A great agenda should preferably cover:
- Set of topics you’d like to cover
- Objectives of the meeting
- Clear timeframes
Unpredictability is an introvert’s worst nightmare. A meeting agenda makes it easy to map out your conversations and steers networking in a specific course that eliminates uncertainty. You can set your agenda via smart notes on a modern professional relationships management tool, so you always have your guide within your fingertips for reference.
Introverts can still be successful networkers!
It’s all about learning to conquer your fears. While embracing online networking in the way of business relationship platforms and virtual meeting scheduling tools can help take the edge off, these shouldn’t be a complete substitute for real-life networking. Just take it one step at a time, consistently put in the time to practice, and bring a familiar face along with you if you can to make networking less nerve-wracking. Overall, it’s all about being ready to ignore the basic instinct to retreat into your shell and let proceedings pass you by. No one’s born a great networker, it’s a skill you pick up along the way, and heck I’m still learning every day.
Let’s stay in touch: www.staytouch.com/@gaurav