How to network when you’re an introvert
August 27th, 2019
Did you know that about 1/3 of Canadians are introverts? Whether being introverted affects your career development or not, it is often the case that introverts struggle with networking and don’t enjoy attending business events. However, we believe that, just like other professional tools, networking is a skill that can be developed, even by those who find it difficult to socialise with strangers.
This article will give you a few tips on how to approach your next networking event and eventually how to be at ease with socialising in corporate contexts.
When arriving at a networking conference, extroverts are often the most noticeable, and for good reason, they do constitute the majority of our population. However, if there is one advice we can give you is to not succumb to the pressure of fitting in and acting like an extrovert. On the contrary, being yourself is much more beneficial and we are here to tell you exactly why that is.
Firstly, we suggest you evaluate the situations you feel comfortable in before arriving at the event. Think about what makes you feel at ease; would you rather have 1-1 conversations? Or do you perform better when you’re in a group setting? Whatever it is, determining which social situations you feel the most comfortable in is a key starting point that will help you determine how to approach networking events.
For example, say you are most at ease with 1-1 conversations. In this case, we could recommend you arrive at the beginning of the event. Being one of the first people at the event allows you to approach networking in a way that isn’t so daunting and successfully meet participants without having to insert yourself into group conversations.
Another important advice, is to know when to take a break. Participating in networking events when you’re an introvert can often be exhausting and sometimes even discouraging. This is why it’s important to take a break in between two conversations and to allow yourself a moment to breathe and relax.
Overall, don’t press yourself to act differently. As a matter of fact, listening to conversations intently, as opposed to blurting out sentences for the sake of it, is proven to be a lot more beneficial in helping you build a stronger professional business network.
Change your perspective
Our second big piece of advice is to change your perception of networking. For introverts, preparing for a networking event not only involves doing research, but also implies some sort of mental gymnastics.
Adam Grant, author of Oratoire, a novel on public speaking, touches on the mental preparation done by public speakers before they enter the stage. One of Grant’s observations was that when public speakers recontextualized their feelings of nervousness and replaced them with feelings of excitement, this often resulted in better performances.
Therefore, before attending a networking event, try to replace your feelings of nervousness but those of optimism and opportunity. After all, networking events are conceived to regroup professionals from the same industry. Chances are, the people attending the networking event have similar interests to yours and your conversation will naturally be guided by those similarities.
In either case, changing your perception will help alleviate some of your stress and will definitely make your experience more enjoyable.
In need of a little help?
We get it, pushing yourself to step out of your comfort zone isn’t always the easiest thing to do, especially for those who have little experience in networking. When that is the case, don’t sweat it, just bring along a friend to help you out!
This tip is especially helpful if you have difficulty walking up to someone and initiating a conversation. Asking a trust-worthy friend or colleague to introduce you or to make the first step, is a great way to start networking.
Another useful tip is to come prepared. Before arriving at the event, have a few conversation starters prepared at the back of your mind or jot them down on a piece of paper. If you’re feeling uninspired make sure to check out these article for a couple ideas:
Take advantage of event networking apps
Finally, take a look at the business networking tools or B2B matchmaking softwares that your event may be offering. These social networking platforms often facilitate quality one on one meetings by allowing users to browse potential business clients, get in touch with one another and set official meetings at the event.
It is also a great way for users who are introverted to establish a first contact with other participants through their internal messaging system. They can also research participants on their business contacts database and come prepared with conversational material, relieving some of the stress of finding reliable conversation starters.
Overall, even though networking conferences are dreaded by many introverted professionals, and rightfully-so, they are absolutely necessary to your professional development. In fact, around 85% of professionals claim that the relationships they have nurtured from networking events are fruitful in the long run. We hope that with this article you feel equipped to walk into your next networking event with confidence. Good luck!