Are you an introvert? If you tend to avoid large crowds and feel energized when spending time alone, chances are you are one of 50 percent of Americans who consider themselves introverts.
For introverts, and even for some extroverts, networking presents social challenges:
· It’s stressful, overwhelming, intimidating
· It’s not easy to introduce yourself and start a conversation with a complete stranger
· It’s challenging to make small talk
Networking is, however, a critical skill for career management and success in business. So, how can people who dislike crowds and are quiet rather than outspoken become better networkers? Here are six proven tips that can help improve the networking experience for introverts.
1. Prep for the event
Consider your objectives for the networking event. Ask yourself: what do you want to get out of the event? What do you want to learn from those you meet? Do you have specific “asks”; for example, you might be interested in getting introduced to people at a specific company.
Don’t attempt to meet every single person at the event. Go for quality over quantity. You can make the experience less overwhelming by targeting a few, specific new contacts. Here’s how:
Try to get a list of the attendees, and identify one to three individuals you would like to meet. Then, research them and their businesses. See if you can find any commonalities to make it easier to start up a conversation. Based on what you want to learn, try to develop a short list of good questions to start the conversations.
Once you’re at the event, go meet those people.
Having a game plan will help you relax and lessen the jitters, while ensuring you’re focused on meeting key people.
2. Bring a buddy
Bring a colleague with you to the event, so it won’t be so intimidating to walk into a room of strangers. After you and your buddy get acclimated to the event and crowd, push yourself to network on your own vs. staying with your buddy the entire time. Know you can always check in with your buddy throughout the evening.
3. Lean into your strengths as an introvert
Many introverts are good listeners, and can leverage this strength in networking situations. Introverts also tend to possess these communications skills:
More reflective, empathic and focus on other’s needs
Tend to divert attention and the conversation from themselves to others
So, try starting a conversation with an open-ended question and get the other person talking. Here's a little secret - people love to talk about themselves.
Scientists have shown that smiling can actually help you feel relaxed and happier. Use your smile as a tool to help you feel more friendly, open and approachable, so others feel comfortable approaching you.
5. Network one-on-one
For introverts, it will be less overwhelming to approach an individual rather than a large group of people. One-on-one networking allows you to lean into your strengths as a listener and thoughtful speaker, and participate in more meaningful conversations that can lead to deeper and more meaningful relationships.
6. Take your networking online
Take advantage of the powerful networking platform offered on LinkedIn. Research your connections to uncover new contacts you would like to connect with.
Don’t forget to join LinkedIn groups — associations, alumni groups — to expand your network.
You may never love networking, but with these tips you’ll be able to manage it better. Remember most people feel the same way you do about networking. For helpful insights and information for introverts, check out the best seller, “Quiet: The Secret Strengths of Introverts,” by Susan Cain.