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Networking is a skill that can help fast-track your success. Networking involves putting yourself on the line, making conversation, and talking to complete strangers. The idea behind networking might sound fun and thrilling for an extroverted personality, but not so much for introverts.
Actually, introverts (myself included) dread the idea of having to walk up to someone who we have never met and try to initiate a conversation. But over the years, I have practiced networking, read books, listened to influencers and learned from the people who face the same problems. So, now I’m going to share some of that collected knowledge with you to help you conquer your fear of networking.
1. Practice your elevator pitch.
You certainly don’t want to be put on the spot and asked “What do you do?” only to completely freeze up or stumble over your words. Take time to put together your elevator pitch; you don’t have to make it sound “salesy” if you are not comfortable. Piece your pitch together so that the pitch highlights what you do in a very short window of time and relays the most important information you want them to know. Practice it every day at least a week before your networking event. This will help you feel more confident.
2. Bring a tag-a-long with you.
In this case, I'm not talking about a Girl Scout Cookie (though that would be a great reward after a successful networking event). Maybe you have a friend in the business or a co-worker who will also be attending the event. Finding a buddy you can tag-a-long with will make you feel more at ease during conversations. All the pressure will not be on you to start the conversation, and you can just chime in and add value wherever you can. Don’t forget to hand the person your business card after each interaction.
3. Network online first.
Introverts tend to feel more comfortable behind the scenes. Now with social media hashtags, it’s fairly easy to locate people who are going to the same event. Find other attendees who you think would be interested in talking at the event. Reach out to them before attending. This way, when you see them pass you on the tradeshow floor, you can recognize them and feel more comfortable saying hello.
4. Be approachable.
It sure is a lot less pressure to talk to someone when someone else talks to you first. Be approachable. At many networking events people are standing around, some on the phone or talking to others, but if you are alone and appear unoccupied, an extrovert will find you. Make sure that you are not spending time staring at your phone. Do not stand around with your arms crossed looking down. Make eye contact and smile at people who pass by; you can catch their attention and invite a conversation without having to say anything.
5. Like Nike says…”Just Do It!”
There are circumstances where you have to break out of your comfort zone and JUST DO IT. For example, I was at a conference one year, and I noticed a guy breeze by me. I caught his company name out of the corner of my eye. I knew this was a company I had been trying to work with for a long time, so I had just a few seconds to say “Excuse me, Joe.” Sure enough, Joe turned around to talk to me and it got the ball rolling. This was a small win, yet gave me a confidence boost to be able to do it again in the future.
Believe me, I know the idea of networking sounds hard, but think about these points and you will do just fine. The more practice, the easier it will become. Remember to also look for similar behavior from other people. Maybe you work up enough skills to approach another introvert and make the networking event a little easier on them as well.
Tell us in the comments, how do you manage networking events as an introvert?
Krista Barrack is an email verification specialist at XVerify. She helps digital marketers improve email campaign success through data verification. Outside of the office, Krista also enjoys traveling, fitness, reading, and listening to podcasts.