For those of us classed as “introverts”, networking is a time filled with avoiding eye contact, pretending to look for someone vacantly in the middle distance, busing yourself on your phone or getting drinks as well as making multiple trips to the loo. It can seem excruciating at the time, but this doesn’t have to be the case. Here are a few simple ways to make networking as an introvert easier.
THE EARLY BIRD
It can be intimidating to walk into a room where conversations and groups have already formed as you have to work twice as hard to “get in”. By getting to an event early you can be sure that you will be one of the first people there, avoiding this awkward introduction.
TOP TIP! If you can try to connect in advance with some people on social media, for example, using a relevant Twitter hashtag then you can lessen that cold start even more.
KEEP IT SIMPLE
Often we are told that we have to have an elevator pitch that we spout out whenever we meet someone new. This is all very well and of course, a useful tool to have to hand but sometimes keeping it simple is the best way to start, especially if as an introvert you struggle to find something to say. Rather than panicking about saying something clever or witty just sticking your hand out, smiling and introducing yourself is often more than enough. You can always add in your elevator pitch later on in the conversation when you feel more at ease.
TOP TIP! If there is a pause in the conversation, don’t panic. It’s not just for you to fill the void. Generally, introverts have a wealth of interests and knowledge simply from sitting back and taking things in so these tit-bits can be a great filler. Equally, if you can quell the nerves and turn your silence into calmness, creating a sense of gravitas and presence.
As an introvert, you will most likely feel most comfortable in the role of a listener. Rather than feeling this is wrong, use it to your advantage. In general, most people (especially extroverts) love to talk about themselves and everything they’ve been doing. So let them! It will keep you part of the conversation and possibly result in a connection with someone while also taking a lot of the pressure off of yourself.
TOP TIP! Before the event, think of a handful of open questions that will apply to almost anyone you meet. This could be asking about their job, interest in the event or even how they got into the industry. However, it’s also worth having a few soundbites that concisely answer those same questions about yourself, just in case the spotlight gets turned back on to you.
QUALITY RATHER THAN QUANTITY
If you’re not a fan of talking to complete strangers than set yourself the goal of quality rather than quantity. Rather than “networking”, try to meet a handful of people that you genuinely like and feel you could become comfortable with. This could lead to work benefits flowing naturally between you at a later date.
TOP TIP! If you don’t know where to start, look for small groups or pairs that have open body language and avoid very close-knit circles.
Being a good networker isn’t only about being able to talk with a group of strangers, it’s also about knowing when to move on. If you start to feel awkward then make a subtle exit e.g you need to get another drink. Smile and emphasise that you have enjoyed talking to that person and would be happy to meet them again and then take a couple of minutes to breathe and collect yourself before finding someone else to meet.
TOP TIP! As an introvert, it’s important to take some time for yourself so that you don’t get overwhelmed. If you’re feeling really overwhelmed then running your wrists under a cold tap can help calm you down.