Networking and Introverts. Two very simple words. But when put together, not so simple for an introvert. It’s cringe-worthy. Introverts are shy, reticent, not concerned with external things. So if you are an introvert, how in the world are you supposed to network if? I mean, surrounding yourself intentionally with people. Talkative people! My wife is introverted. Like really, really, really introverted. She often describes the feeling as wanting to be less visible. Wanting to be faceless and observe. She’s less comfortable sharing and more comfortable learning. She likes her privacy. She doesn’t like lots of people. Even ones she knows. So what is the strategy on networking if you are among the introverts?
Networking Strategy for Introverts
I know, it will all seem so simple. It really IS simple, but it isn’t easy. I watched so many of my colleagues and friends, even my own wife, suffer. Yes, suffer, while networking. It’s overwhelming when you’re one of the many introverts. How many? Roughly half the population. So you aren’t alone. If that actually make you feel any better.
You might not believe me, but some of the most iconic and loudest performers of all time are introverts. They HATE being in the spotlight. Michael Jackson, Jimi Hendricks, Bob Marley, Tori Amos, Lady Gaga.
You can only be successful if you know what results you’re trying to achieve. That could be a certain number of contacts, or a minimum number of 1:1 meetings set. Whatever it is, start off with 2-3 goals for the networking event. Make 2 professional and 1 personal. Like approaching 3 people, or breaking the ice on your own.
Create a Plan
How are you going to reach that goal? If you need to walk away with 4 meetings, how many people do you need to approach first? What can you say? How can you give your elevator pitch? What kinds of materials will you bring with you? You’ll need a roadmap to achieve your goals.
Introverts do this best! Pay attention to the room. Spot other introverts and break the ice with them first. They’ll be less intimidating and you might connect better. Try warming yourself up by talking to people who you feel more comfortable with first. Extroverts may be overwhelming. They may talk at you or over you. Or too much. So try your luck for a while with someone you think is more similar to you. Introverts have the best listening skills. Use that to your advantage to research the room before you begin your approach.
Consider a Buddy
You don’t have to network alone. Take a friend or have your contact sphere there. If you have an extrovert who will help you, that’s perfect. They can help you if you feel like you’re in too deep and they can easily introduce you if needed. It’s absolutely a great idea to network with people you know. I do this all the time but you have to make sure you don’t hang out in your comfort zone all night. If you do, you won’t reach your goals. You need new contacts to grow your business.
Focus on 1:1 Conversation
Don’t approach the group setting unless you’re fully comfortable. Try a one to one approach. See if you can single out another introvert. You’d be surprised how many introverts will be at networking events. Use their isolation, and your own, to create an environment most comfortable to both of you. If you feel awful in crowds, it’s OK to avoid them. You can still be successful in networking.
Have a System for Your Data
How will you collect information? How will you take notes? Once you get home and go through your business cards, how will you know what they need and how to reach them? I personally always have a grey Sharpie with me. Why? Because it’s the only color that will write on 99% of UV coatings, which are commonly used on business cards. I mark a particular symbol in the top corner. That symbol corresponds to a legend I create for that event so I know what we talked about. Are they a good referral partner, a good candidate for my services, or do I need their services? Maybe I want to introduce them to someone? I also have symbols for people I don’t like. Which is always going to happen. People too pushy, too rude. If you mark a symbol, you’ll know what it means but they won’t. I also ask how they prefer to be contacted and mark it with a letter. “E”mail, “T”ext, “P”hone call, etc.
Networking is worth nothing if you don’t follow up. This is necessary. Do what you said you were going to do. Don’t wait to be contacted unless that person requested it as such. If you are introverted, make sure you communicate your preferred method of communication upfront. Email is OK. So is texting. It’s convenient and if it makes you feel safer, that’s OK.
I hope this will help you improve your network strategy as an introvert. Remember, introverts are everywhere. There’s nothing wrong with you. You’re simply built to be a greater observer, listener, and information processer. It’s OK that you aren’t a fancy talker. You don’t need to be. You just need to be you. Speaking of, I love connecting with introverts so let’s keep in touch on Facebook