Networking as an introvert can be a challenging endeavor. However, you can do it. I’m an introvert, and I grew my business primarily with networking. At my peak, I was attending 7-10 networking events and 40 sit down meetings every week! It was exhausting, but I made it work.
I’ve compiled the following tips based on my experience. I developed many of these tips during my networking days. However, others I developed now that I have hindsight. Hopefully my experiences can help you!
- Networking From Your Home
- Figure Out Your Rhythms
- The Introvert Networking Game
- Bring a Friend
- Choose The Right Events
- Hire It Out
- Networking Tips for the Introvert
Let’s get right to it!
Networking From Your Home
Firstly, there are ways you can network from home. My favorite strategy is asking current connections for introductions to people they know. If you’re looking to meet dog trainers, ask people you already know if they have any dog trainers in their network. This is generally more effective than attending an event. However, if your circle is rather small, you might need other ways to get new connections.
You can also check out social networking sites like LinkedIn. That’s a great way to meet new people. It’s not a hard and fast rule, but I find it important to also meet someone in real time. You can schedule a phone call or one on one coffee meeting. The conversation flows easier once you move past email.
I say that isn’t a hard and fast rule because I know a couple people who only connect over email. In my opinion, that’s really impressive in the business world. Most people want a phone call at least, but these connections of mine will only communicate via email. They run successful businesses, so clearly they’ve figured out what works for them.
Figure Out Your Rhythms
In my case, I worked best in the mornings and could build up my energy throughout the day. Therefore, I’d attend mostly evening networking events when my social energy had recharged. If I went to a morning event, it was more intimate or based around some activity or speaker.
I have a friend who is the opposite. She would always cancel on me last minute for evening events. Worn out from the day, she did not have the energy to network in the evenings. It’s all about figuring out what works best for you.
I also knew that if I had an important client meeting the next morning, I had to take it easier at the evening events or not attend at all. It was more important that I was alert and energized for my clients than attend an event. After all, that’s why we network.
When you’re at events, I also find it is very important to take breaks. I generally took a break every 15 minutes. I found a lot of great excuses to get out of a room and be alone for a minute. Be sure you don’t use the bathroom as an excuse every time though!
The Introvert Networking Game
If you attend larger events, I highly recommend you check out my introvert networking game. Turning the small talk into a game helped save me from what would have otherwise drained all of my energy.
Even though I call it a game, it was actually just a set of rules that helped me make sure I followed social etiquette and made meaningful relationships. That might come naturally to some, but us introverts need a little help sometimes.
If you’re anything like me, you forget how to ask normal questions. Therefore, I like to prepare scripts ahead of time. These should be based on your voice and your personality. However, they should also cover the following:
“Hi, I’m Richard. <Extend hand and pause waiting for response. Actually listen to their name.>”
“Nice to meet you ________ <Repeating their name helps you remember it. It also forces you to focus on their name instead of thinking of your next line.>. What do you do?”
The following items may or may not be useful, but I always try to have them ready to go just in case:
- What brings you to this event?
- Who are you trying to meet here?
- Why do you enjoy _______?
You should also have a 10 second, 30 second, and 5 minute version of what you do prepared and rehearsed. You never know which version your acquaintance wants to hear, so start with the 10 second during your introduction. “I’m an attorney with Law++ where I help small businesses manage their business law issues.” It’s as easy as that. In my opinion, if you can’t give someone a good idea of what you do in 10 seconds, you don’t have a good enough grasp yourself.
Your 30 second and 5 minute scripts should include more specific examples. For example “I’m an attorney with Law++ where I help small business manage their business law issues. These range from LLC and corporation formations, contracts, and employment all the way to mergers and acquisitions and bankruptcy.” Tada!
Some times I mix up the examples based on my audience. For example, if I’m talking with a business broker, I’m going to talk a lot about mergers and acquisitions.
Bring a Friend
If you can, bring a friend with. It’s easier to talk with a friend than a stranger. Friends can also bail you out of situations where someone is not letting you leave. Additionally, they’re great for doubling your reach. When I’m networking with friends, I’m looking for someone I would want to meet or someone my friend would want to meet. When I get the chance, I signal for my friend to come over and I make the introduction right there. That’s a great way to make more meaningful connections.
Choose the Right Events
Some events are better for introverts than others. Would you rather attend a lecture on a topic you enjoy, or jump into a chamber of commerce event with 500 strangers? It might be a leading question, but you get the idea. It’s important to find events that won’t break you, even if that means you won’t meet as much of a variety of people. If you’re frazzled or exhausted, you’re not doing great networking anyway.
Hire It Out
Finally, did you know you can hire other people to network for you? Depending on how you structure this relationship, they could be salespersons or brand representatives. I’ve seen a wide variety of these people in my time. However, they’re not as effective as doing it yourself. I’d recommend only choosing this option if you absolutely cannot handle the networking aspect.
Keep in mind this strategy comes with the huge downside of what happens when your hired help leaves you. How do you keep up with the relationships he or she built for you?
Networking Tips for the Introvert
To recap, networking is harder for an introvert if you play by the same rules as your extroverted colleagues. Use these tips to get ahead and save yourself the drain of traditional networking.
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