You’ve been repeatedly told by colleagues and have read about the benefits and importance of attending networking events. “It’s what you do as a business person.” “It’s where your customers and referral sources are.” Does this sound familiar? So, you say to yourself that it’s something I must do. This is all well and good but what happens if you’re an introvert?
If you’re an introvert, you might agree with the following*:
- You feel ‘just right’with less stimulation
- You would rather take a vacation at the beach and relax with a book rather than go on a cruise
- You tend to work carefully and deliberately
- In social settings you wish you were home
- You devote your limited social energy to close friends, colleagues and family.
A good place to start planning your networking strategy is to identify your strengths and challenges you face promoting your business. Think of strengths as something that comes easily to you and something you love and enjoy. Challenges are both external (time and money) and internal. Internal challenges are those activities that don’t come easily to you and are often outside your comfort zone.
- How do I feel about attending a networking event?
- Given my quiet nature, how many people can I realistically make meaningful contact with at a networking event?
- Wouldn’t I rather be talking one-on-one than‘working the room’?
Lead with your strengths, not your weaknesses. Why expose yourself to needless anxiety? If you see networking events as an anxiety-provoking experience, try something else more suited to you.
However, networking events are where the money is. Here are some suggestions about how to network in your own, introverted way:
1. Make a game plan prior to the event and identify specific individuals to meet
2. Get the jump on other attendees by volunteering with the sponsoring organization to do anything (help with registration, refreshments, etc.). This is a great way to meet the leaders of the organization sponsoring the event.
3. Try not to get distracted by talking to friends or those not in a position to help you.
4. Don’t go it alone, bring a buddy. Your buddy can be anyone who can help you negotiate the event.
5. When you meet someone at a networking event, you have few precious seconds to tell your story. Be ready to modify your story (fondly known as an elevator speech) on the fly based on the special interests of the person you are meeting. There are plenty of places on the web to find guidelines on how to craft your elevator speech. Bottom line: make it short and sweet.
6. Land the plane. What kind of follow-up do you want? Ask for a meeting; get their business card; give them your business card; or invite them to something. Be sure to land the plane smoothly, safely and quickly.
7. Know when to bail out.
It may seem that extroverts rule. As an introvert, find your own way of networking that is uniquely suited to your quiet strengths and talents.
*Taken from Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. Crown Publishers, 2012