Do you wish you had a Networking for Introverts guide or cheatsheet? Networking can feel like an insurmountable challenge when you’re an introvert. I totally understand because I am an introvert too! I enjoy my alone time and recharge by being by myself for a while. The idea of going to an event with lots of other people sounds intimidating.
But here’s the thing. Networking is necessary to reach your business goals!
Don’t believe me? Have you ever asked friends or family to help your spread the word about your business? Have you ever asked for referrals? Or maybe it’s taken the form of telling other people about what you do.
Pssst. That’s networking.
Because if no one knows about your business or what you do or how you can help, how will you ever get clients or make sales? Right?
Networking for Introverts: My Story
I remember when I first considered going to a networking event. At the time, I had never been to a networking event before. I was working a full time job, but I knew that it wasn’t my career. When I first dreamt up pursuing becoming a photographer, I knew that I had to meet other photographers.
But I was an introvert. I definitely lean more towards shy than outgoing. Meeting new people is not my favorite thing in the world. It feels entirely too uncomfortable to have to put yourself in a situation and talk to complete strangers. But it’s a necessary part of life, unless you can carry on as a hermit!
My first networking event
So I remember I mustered all my courage to attend my first photographer happy hour. I could barely call myself a photographer, as in, it felt so difficult to utter the words, “I’m a photographer”. So, I drove up to San Francisco (I was living in the Bay Area at the time) from my full time job on the peninsula.
I didn’t have business cards. I didn’t have a website. And I felt beyond unqualified to be in that room, amongst “real photographers”.
But you know what? I did it anyway. I set my fear to the side and told myself that if this event helped me get ONE STEP closer to my goal of being a “real” photographer, it would be worth all the nervousness I was experiencing.
And you know what? It went okay! Did it change my life forever? No. But did I prove to myself that I could do uncomfortable things in the name of moving my business forward? Yes!
After that first experience, each and every event that I attended felt less scary. I’d start to recognize some of the same people. And before I knew it, I was no longer the “new” person. I was a regular.
Networking for Introverts: The Easy Way
Networking doesn’t have to be hard as an introvert. Will it ever be your favorite thing? I highly doubt it. But will it get easier over time? Yes, I believe it does.
Introverts actually have a great skillset or inclination that comes in handy at networking events. We like to listen. Or at least, we’ll take listening over speaking in many situations.
As Dale Carnegie put it in How to Win Friends and Influence People:
You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.Dale Carnegie
If you’re going to go to a networking event, keep this quote in mind. Make it your mission to be interested in other people. Don’t try to make people be interested in you. That just smells of desperation. And when you’re a good listener, it’s even easier.
Here are my tips for networking as an introvert.
Networking for Introverts: Bring a Friend
If going to a networking event sounds like the last thing you want to do in your life, here’s my advice. Bring a friend. And bring a friend who is not shy, who is the type who can help you meet people.
It’s nice to have that buffer of someone you trust who isn’t shy or too reserved help introduce you to others. Have you ever seen How I Met Your Mother? And Barney Stinson (played by Neil Patrick Harris) introduces his friend Ted Mosby to the ladies by saying “Have you met my friend, Ted?”
You need that person. And I know it’s hard to break into a conversation or insert yourself in a group. It feels awkward and uncomfortable, especially for an introvert. So if you feel like you’d rather be set on fire than go networking, bring a friend who can put you at ease and help you get out there.
Networking for Introverts: Listen More than You Talk
This is pretty easy when you’re an introvert or shy. I’ve found that I really enjoy observing and listening and scoping out a situation in order to help feel more comfortable in a situation.
To me, there’s nothing more annoying than that person who brags about themselves all day long. That’s definitely a red flag for someone I probably don’t want to get to know. Bragging about yourself and how amazing you are doesn’t sell me on the idea of getting to know you better.
Be a good listener. People love to talk about themselves.
Networking for Introverts: Ask Questions
When you do speak, be sure to ask questions. Like I said, people love to talk about themselves. They love to know that someone is listening. Because let me tell you, in the years of networking and events that I have attended, there’s nothing as affirming as someone who listens intently to you talking. On the flip side, there’s nothing more irritating that speaking to someone who is not listening and obviously looking for someone “better” to speak to. (Ask me how I know about this!)
When you’ve found someone with whom the conversation is going well, ask questions such as:
“What other groups are you a member of?”
“Where are you getting your inquiries/clients currently?”
“What are you currently reading/watching?”
Don’t be afraid to excuse yourself
I know that I’ve felt stuck in conversations at networking events before. And it feels rude to just walk away. But you’re done being in the conversation with that person.
Don’t be afraid to excuse yourself from a conversation you want to leave. Here are some helpful phrases:
“It’s been great chatting with you, but I do need to say hello to a few other people.”
“I don’t want to take up all your time, it was great chatting with you!”
“Thanks so much, I just have to touch base with XYZ.”
“Did you happen to see where the restroom is?” – personal favorite!
Networking as an introvert doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice your energy because of an unproductive conversation. Don’t be afraid to move on, your time is too valuable to be swallowed up by conversation that’s going nowhere.
Networking for Introverts: Follow Up
Now this is where I believe introverts come in clutch. If you’re like me, you probably prefer one-on-one interactions. Networking events are not your cup of tea, but you go to them because you need to meet other people so that they know you and your business exist.
After you’ve gone to a networking event, take note on who you’d want to follow up with. Send them a quick email and invite them to coffee or lunch if you want to go deeper with them. This is where the secret sauce of introverts lives. Meeting with a fellow business owner one-on-one gives you so much more opportunity to get to know them beyond their networking elevator pitch.
Setting up coffee or lunch meetings following networking events gave me the chance to turn simple acquaintances into friends. Now, don’t get me wrong, you won’t make friends with everyone. But, you’ll be able to identify business contacts that you do want to be friends with and be able to call when you have an idea or issue. Have I mentioned that having friends in business is important? I have.
Do you have any other tips for networking for introverts? Leave them in the comments below!
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