It is 11:30 pm on a Friday night. I just came from a networking event, at a local hotel. The event went well, that is, the speakers were great and it was great to hear great entrepreneurial ideas. I managed to get a business card from one of the speakers, a lady who owns a travel company, another gentleman who invests in SMEs, the host, the guy seating next to me and a lady who does team building and outdoor activities. But do I feel great about that? No, I don’t.
I used to be terrible at networking, and after picking these few contacts, I left in a hush and drove home quickly. To make my business successful, I assured had myself I needed to network, plus I had already paid for the event. So I dressed casually, rocked on a pair of heels to give me some drive and went for the event. Despite it starting an hour late, I keep time and it ending more than an hour late, the talks were good, and I am glad I went, but I wish I could make more out of the event.
The thing is, all the reluctance to go, and all the rush to leave and all the hesitation to talk to a lot of people, come from introversion. Yes, I am an introvert. A few people may find this funny, my friends especially, because with them I am most talkative, but in crowds, I keep to myself. I read an amazing, well researched book called Quiet, The Power of Introverts, How to be an introvert in a world that can’t stop talking. This book explains all you want to know about introverts, and is a diagnostic one if you want to find out whether you are an introvert or not. I first discovered Susan Cain on a TED talk, an episode which I love and watch over and over.
You see, introverts have a problem with small talk, they prefer to talk about real feelings, facts, tough topics, or just stay quiet. I have no problem with talking, but I dislike small talk, and pretending to be nice while I actually don’t feel nice. Introverts tend to be disconnected from the crowds.
I did not identify as an introvert before, until I read the Quiet book., I tried to go to all the right places, talk a lot with new people, smile, but deep down I just want to get home and read a book( I am always reading 2-3 books). Susan Cain however, in her book, teaches us to embrace who were are, and our introversion. When you choose a path to run a business however, you cannot escape networking.
Therefore, before I go through my advice of networking for introverts, I hope you are here because you are like me, or closer to that, so you will relate to all the things I am saying.
Here are the tips on networking for introverts.
Love what you do
Love what you do, believe in it and you will have passion speaking about it. As speaking as an introvert can be a challenge, being passionate about what you do makes it easy to communicate. In networking events, you get to explain what you like passionately, without feeling as if you are faking that conversation flow.
Listen, a lot
I know, you need to put your idea out there but listen. When you understand people’s problems, they relate with you better and will trust you in helping to solve them. I like to call it standing shoulder to shoulder with them, being at their level. Remember, just like you passionate about your business, so are they, and they want to be listened to.
Pseudo person in events
One thing I learned in the book, Quiet, The Power of Introverts, How to be an introvert in a world that cant stop talking, is that you can make up a character for certain circumstances. Susan Cain gives an example about a professor who is an extreme introverts, but during his lectures, he makes up a character that sociable and easy to interact with. It is just like acting. At the end of the event, you have interacted as your pseudo-character, and you can get home and relax.
Take time outs
Introverts need a lot of time alone, which is how they re-energize. During networking events, you can take as many bathroom breaks as you want, to recharge and get back to the event. Just be sure you don’t interrupt someone to take a break when they are talking to you. Instead, ask a third party to join you and when the conversation is not too intense, take a break and get back to it.
Schedule your networking activities
I know the advice for business people is network, network, network! This can be very exhausting to an introvert. Instead of all this pressure, why not schedule your networking events. You can list the networking events available in a month, then pick only two that you think are very important and relevant to what you do. This way, you don’t have to debate on whether to go or not go, as you have made it mandatory you have to attend the identified events.
Make a meaningful conversation with one person
Introverts are uncomfortable with speaking in events, most are comfortable interaction with one person. You will find sometimes in an event there is that one person who you get along with, have similar interest and can be beneficial to you and your business.
Lower your expectations
Sometimes we go to an event in the mindset that you have to network with people beneficial to your business. When this does not happen, you can be disappointed and not have the morale to attend future events. Not all networks lead to business, but the only way you will ever get the few that get is through networking. Take some events as a chance to get out and unwind (this is tricky for introverts) but it is necessary.
Effective and public speaking training and coaching
For the extreme introverts, speaking up is really a problem. If this is who you are, you can take up a class to give you confidence to interact and speak in small crowds. Such training and coaching sessions are available, offered individually and in groups, and can be very beneficial.
All in all, be proud of your introversion; own it and no need trying to be someone else. You are who you are, unique, special and outstanding.
Are you an introvert? Do you struggle with networking? Let’s share in the comment section below.