An Introvert’s Guide to Networking
I recently read that 95% of people feel intimidated by networking events. If you are an introvert or shy away from networking, you are not alone.
Other styles of connecting exist, such as joining groups with a common cause, taking classes and developing strong partnerships with people who share common values. There are times, however, when networking skills are important. When I find myself in a room of strangers, I remember my mother’s words of wisdom to extend my hand as a form of welcome while introducing myself. It is astounding how such a simple act of physical connection can put others at ease.
Here are a few simple tips that can make an event more enjoyable, and possibly build lasting relationships.
1) Choose an event that has a speaker or activity. It will get everyone involved and provide a common experience to talk about with other attendees.
2) Invite someone to come along. Remember, though, that you are there to expand your circle of connections. You and your friend might introduce each other as a way to take the edge off trying to describe yourself and your work.
3) If there is a greeter, let him or her know you are new. Ask the greeter who might introduce you to other guests. Be prepared to briefly say what you do and what type of people you would like to meet.
4) When you enter the room, take time to look around. Breathe. Observe. Take a moment to settle yourself, so you can gain your composure. Notice who intrigues or interests you. Who seems friendly? Who has a common style or manner? Begin with them.
5) Be curious. Business happens because of personal connection. If your mind typically goes blank after initial introductions, make a list of questions before the event that you might ask someone. Asking people about what they do, their interests, their approach, etc., will put everyone at ease, including yourself. Try to ask open-ended (vs. yes/no) questions. It will help keep the conversation flowing.
6) When you talk about your work, stay in connection. Many people have learned an “elevator pitch” about their work. This can be helpful as an introduction. Adapt what you say to address the interest of your listener. If you have taken the time to ask them about their work and their life, you can more easily relate what you do in terms that are accessible and interesting for them.
7) Have an “excuse yourself” strategy. If you are uncomfortable with someone, have a polite way of excusing yourself; don’t wait to be rescued.
8) Realize that you don’t have to stay. Give yourself a time frame to check out the event, and if you still feel uncomfortable, leave.
9) Follow up with people you enjoy. Don’t wait for others to make the first move. Invite them to lunch or for coffee. Find places that reflect your style of connection. Meet where you can have a relaxed conversation. Take time to share common connections and business intentions. Once the relationship is established, don’t shy away from asking how you might be an advocate or referral for each other.
As a master certified coach, Carolyn believes that the most fulfilling businesses are created from intentionally honoring your unique approach to sharing your knowledge, your style, your way. Through one-on-one coaching and action-focused group coaching programs, Carolyn offers key outreach skills to grow a thriving new venture. She also offers practice-building lectures, workshops and seminars for associations, schools and organizations.