We recently talked about various ways for building a strong and effective network. For introverted business owners, the thought of networking can be frightening and for some, maybe even debilitating. This is not to say that if you’re an introvert, you get a free pass to cross off networking events off your list of things to do. Nope. We’re not letting you off that easy. We spoke with Hera Hub Sorrento Valley Director, Sarah Bacerra, who while having a bubbly and gregarious personality, considers herself an introvert, but today could easily pass as an extrovert.
If you’re sure whether you’re introverted or extroverted one easy question to see which side of the spectrum you fall is to ask yourself where you get your energy from and where does it tend to get sucked away? If you are one of those who gets energized and excited being around people and you don’t find that draining, you probably lean more towards the extroverted end of the spectrum. If you know that you need ample amounts of time to decompress after an event and leave exhausted, it’s likely that you are more introverted.
Having the ability to be able to adapt to social settings and situations is an important skill for an introvert to have. We’ve put together a quick list of tips to help introverts approach networking events with more ease.
Tip #1: Be Prepared
As with any networking event, preparation is always key. Sometimes the hardest part of networking is the initial sparking up a conversation with a stranger. Come prepared with a list of questions that you can ask when the situation presents itself. Broad questions can take off some of the pressure of knowing what to say and gives the other person an opportunity to share first so you have a bit of time to listen first and ease into the conversation. Consider asking these questions as conversation starters.
- “What are you passionate about?”
- “What brought you here tonight?”
- “Tell me about you?”
- “What industry are you in?”
Tip #2: Volunteer
Having a specific role at the event may help alleviate some of the pressure you might face walking into a networking event blind and not knowing anyone. One little trick is to reach out to the event organizer and see if you can volunteer at check-in or helping set-up the event. This approach could make an unfamiliar event easier to manage as an introvert. You may even find this tactic to be good for meeting people as well.
Tip #3: Find Out Who You Should Be Talking To
This goes back to preparation. When you arrive at the event, make a point to find a key individual or someone you believe may be a connector or know a lot of individuals in attendance. This could be the organizer, speaker, board member, or even a high-level volunteer. Connecting with this type of individual first and asking them who you should be talking to could save you from some awkward moments. If you’re alone, you could even ask this individual to make an introduction right then and there.
Tip #4: Listen
Careful listening does not require you to be the center of attention. A lot of networking events create space where it’s easy to step into an ongoing conversation, especially if there are serving food or beverages and you’re on the hunt to find a space to set down your items.
Quietly and politely join in on a conversation and just start listening. Hopefully, those already there will work you into the conversation and if not, don’t sweat it. You can easily excuse yourself and try another group or table that may be more welcoming.
Tip #5: Learn the art of the ‘Gracious Goodbye’
If you’re not quite sure how to break out of a group, using your business cards as a tool and saying a polite, “It’s been great chatting with you, I’d love to follow-up or connect on LinkedIn. Do you have a business card?” can be an easy way to navigate your way out of a conversation. After all, you’re at a networking event to meet people, not get stuck in a conversation the entire time with one or two individuals. No one should give you grief about this and you can carry on and connect with others in attendance.
Tip #6 Put an icebreaker on your name tag
Keep things lighthearted and consider putting a funny icebreaker or an interesting fact about you on your name tag that might spark up a conversation. Icebreakers are great ways to loosen up and another avenue to open up a conversation with someone.
Just because you’re an introvert doesn’t mean that every networking event has to suck. Being aware of your social disposition can bring you closer to developing the skills necessary to build relationships and make connections. The good news is that this is a skill that can be developed with practice.
Are you an introvert? Share some of the tips you use to bring ease into networking.