I invented The Introvert Networking Game to (1) grow your business and (2) survive networking events.
I developed this strategy over time while I was attending at least 10 events a week. Networking was the best way to grow my business. However, I’m also an introvert which presented some challenges.
What is an Introvert?
An introvert is a person who gains energy from introspective activities opposed to extroverted activities. For me, this meant I gained energy from things like problem solving and small group discussions. On the other hand, I found that large group settings were draining.
That said, I also discovered that you could train your extroverted muscles. The more often I was in large group settings, the higher tolerance I had. I went back to a large networking event after a long break and discovered I had lost my stamina.
One thing that saved me was The Introvert Networking Game.
The Introvert Networking Game
I initially started the introvert networking game as a survival strategy. However, it blossomed into a set of rules that made networking more efficient and rewarding. The rules are actually quite simple:
- Be genuine.
- Find out something about each person.
- Figure out one way to help each person.
- Determine follow up status.
- Follow up.
There you have it! That’s the game. Let’s dive a little deeper into each rule.
Everyone can tell when someone isn’t sincere. Don’t ever go into a networking event selling a product you don’t believe in. In this scenario, you might be the product. Do what it takes to believe in what you’re showcasing.
I’ve met an incredible number of people who used self deprecating humor in a way that makes it seem like they’re bad at their job or they hate what they sell. Don’t do this. Being friendly is great, but you still have to demonstrate you’re the best at what you do.
Additionally, you can’t fake interest in someone else. You genuinely have to be interested in others. I’ve also encountered the type of person who just wants to talk about themselves. Since networking is a two way street, you need a genuine interest in others.
In my case, I was genuinely interested in the next two rules. That was enough to actually show my genuineness towards others. If you’re anything like me, you care about other people, but you often forget to ask follow up questions. That was my biggest problem. A person would ask a normal networking question like “what do you do?” I would answer, but then I’d stand there waiting for their response even though I never asked the question. The following two rules eliminated that mistake.
Find Out Something About Each Person
The next rule is to find out something about each person. Besides their name and what they do, there are a ton of things you can ask. Most people offer up this information from the start. If you’re struggling to find questions to ask, here are some samples:
- What are you most passionate about in your job?
- How did you find out about this event?
- Who are you looking to meet at this event?
- How many years have you been _____?
Try any of these. They’re all exceptionally great questions for a networking event. However, you should make sure you choose one you actually care to know the answer to.
Figure Out One Way To Help Each Person
Next, you need to figure out one way you can help each person you meet. You do not need to actually help them. Just find one way you can. Whether or not you help them depends on whether you like and trust them. Networking is a lot like dating. If you get a bad feeling about someone, disengage. Don’t continue that relationship.
When I first started out, I didn’t have a lot of ways I could help, but I could make introductions. It is nice to have a lot of strategic partners who are looking for people to introduce you to. That way you’re networking even when you’re not out at events.
Here are some other options:
- Send referrals.
- Create educational materials for them or their customers.
- Speak at an event they host.
- Invite them to other networking events with you.
- Pro bono or volunteer work.
Often times, I’ll write on a person’s card so I can remember these things later.
Once you’ve determined how you can help them, it is time to decide whether you will or not. In the next step, we make that determination.
Determine Follow Up Status
People carry business cards at networking events. It is what you do. Therefore, the business card is my tool for determining follow up. If I like and trust the person, I place their card in my right pocket. If I decide I’m not going to follow up, I place the card in my left pocket. It’s that easy, and it helps me remember later that night or the next day.
At some events, I’ll meet 20-30 new people. That’s a lot to remember. Hopefully I’ve written notes on each person’s card!
Don’t spend too much time with any one person. Your mission is to meet people, engage them enough to determine whether you’re a good match, and move on. Networking events are not the place to make deep meaningful connections. They’re often loud, crowded, and full of interruptions. I love to use the line “let’s meet up sometime later when it isn’t so loud so we can get to know more about each other’s businesses.” Even if you don’t mean it (sorry genuineness), it’s a good disengaging line.
If a person won’t let you disengage, there are other strategies you can employ.
You don’t have to follow up with everyone. However, if you’re going to follow up with someone, you should do it right away. Don’t give anyone a chance to forget about you. At least at first, you don’t stay in memory as long. It takes several meetings before you are committed to a person’s long term memory. Therefore, you should follow up with the following pattern.
Firstly, follow up within 24 hours of meeting a person. Ask to go to a one on one meeting or have a phone call.
Secondly, follow up right after the meeting thanking them for their time and send along any information you promised to send them. Often, I promise to send an article or introduction to someone else.
Tip: If you promised multiple introductions, space them a couple days apart with the first one the same day as your one on one meeting. This way you stay top of mind longer.
Thirdly, find an excuse to reconnect with this person around 2 weeks. You can send them a request to go to an event, an interesting piece of information, or a connection they might find beneficial. For this first reconnection, 2 weeks is the right amount of time.
Fourthly, keep connecting with this person every 1-2 months. That keeps the relationship alive.
How is this the Introvert Networking Game?
This all becomes a game once you keep score. I always set a goal for myself. You can measure any of these steps, but I like to keep track of number of new business cards I’ve received. They only count if I went through the whole process though. There’s always 1-2 people who just hand out cards and don’t have a conversation.
If I’m going to a large event with over 100 people, I’m always aiming for at least 10, depending on how frequently I’ve attended that event and how large it actually is. If I’m at a 300 person event, I might set my goal at 25. That’s a lot!
Once I hit my goal, I leave. I usually follow up with people that night so they’re top of mind. You never know what will take your attention tomorrow, so it’s best to take care of this while it’s fresh. It also throws off my rhythm if someone follows up with me first.
Using this strategy, I actually got to the point where I was having 40 coffee meetings a week and at least 10 events. Because of this strategy, I was able to grow my business rapidly. I met a lot of great people and made hundreds of meaningful relationships. It was a ton of work, and if it weren’t for the introvert networking game, I would not have been able to do it.