For introverts networking can feel oddly outside their comfort zone. Yes, you’ve heard this before- it’s not what you know, but whom you know. Conference halls filled with large audiences, not to mention the pressure to be interesting and congenial is enough to give most introverts sweaty palms. The good news is that you’re not alone and you can learn how to network in 5 simple steps, no matter how introverted you are. Preparation is keyDepending on what event you’re attending, you can try and find out about other attendees beforehand to get your head in the right space. Prepare a list of questions that can be asked or discussed with key people, depending on the nature of your interaction. But if you don’t have time for that (let’s be honest, most of us don’t) then brush up on the latest happenings in your industry for more meaningful conversations. What are the big news stories around at the moment, locally and globally? If you’re informed, you’ll always have ways to make conversations interesting.
Stay focused and judge the vibeYou know those people at events who just go from person to person, introducing themselves and handing out and collecting business cards? Yeah, you don’t want to be that guy. Trying too hard to sell yourself and acting like a door-to-door salesman can be very off-putting. Stay focused on why you’re there. Instead of stacking business cards, relax and actually build relationships, share stories and be a good listener. Because most people are better at talking than listening, you’ll stand out as someone who values others. Bring a wingmanIt’s always nice to have a friend or colleague. In networking and business situations, having a colleague beside you can help you feel more confident and relaxed to join conversations and meet people. They can introduce you to others and act as backup for any chats gone awry. Just make sure not to use that person as a total crutch - take a few opportunities to go off on your own and make your own way! Make an intelligent exitA sign of good networking is also judging when it is time to move on. If you’re feeling awkward, look to make an exit by saying you need to be excused or get another drink. Always remember to end the conversation on a pleasant note. Try and set your next meeting, exchange contact information, and remember to thank them for their time. Never stop practicingPractice makes perfect, so don’t stop trying these tips until talking to others becomes second nature. If all goes well, by your third or fourth networking adventure, you’ll feel those nerves and stress melt away! Golden rule is to remember and take time between talking to people and have a moment or two to reflect, think, reassess and stay on track.