By definition, I am a massive introvert. Contrary to what many people assume, introverts are not shy. We just process energy differently. An extrovert gains energy from being around others, while an introvert is recharged by time alone. A room full of people for an introvert is full of challenges. Sometimes it takes us longer to get into a groove, we often need some time to assess the crowd, and we anticipate feeling a crash as the night goes on. One of our strengths is that we excel in smaller groups and one on one conversations. We value genuine connection, so networking, especially in large-scale networking events, is not our favorite.
When I built my first business, I went to networking events day and night. As an entrepreneur, I’m fortunate that my ambition has always trumped my natural introverted tendencies. A quiet day curled up with my laptop and a few uninterrupted hours to work sounds like heaven, but sometimes you have to (literally) put on pants and go out into the world. Over the years, I’ve done a ton of research on how to make networking as an introvert easier and more productive. Today I’m going to share the tips that work for me. Whether you are an entrepreneur, small business owner, are starting a side hustle, or work for an organization, these are easy ways to network as an introvert.
Easy Ways to Network as an Introvert
Have an Agenda
Uncertainty and chaos is the bane of every introvert’s existence.
Before you walk into any event, figure out what you want to get out of the meeting. What kind of connections are you looking to make? Are you hoping to meet someone in particular? Are you there to find a specific resource, or simply to build your brand? Being clear about your intentions will help you stay focused and in control.
* Pro tip: If you can’t come up with a clear agenda or are unable to define a deliverable, that might be a sign that the event isn’t for you. Be selective, you’re time is valuable.
Use Social Media
Social media is a dream for an introvert. You can connect with people without having to speak with them. Amazing. I could do an entire post on how you can use social to drive connection. Prior to a networking event, I use it to reach out to people who I think may also be in attendance. A simple email or DM is saying, “wondering if I’ll see you, would love to connect,” goes a long way. Take it a step further by asking them to meet for a drink prior, and go together. This is a way to create an agenda, give you purpose and keep you on track.
Additionally, I might do some research. Say you plan on attending an event with a keynote speaker. Check out their LinkedIn profile, learn something about them, or read a few of their articles. Before the event, send out a tweet referencing their work or comment about looking forward to hearing them in person. If you get the opportunity to meet, you’ll have something of substance to speak to, and can make a lasting impression and connection.
Arriving 20 minutes late might be considered fashionable, but I like to get to networking events on time. You’ll be one of a handful of other punctual people, and the smaller group is much easier to navigate in the beginning. It gives you some much needed time to warm up. You’ll feel confident and will be able to be the person to bring others into the conversation. Doing so puts you in a position of power, and helps you get what you need out of the meeting.
* Pro tip: Reach out the organizer before the event and see if you can help. Volunteering to help with check in, or sell raffle tickets gives you something to do, raises your profile and helps you connect with more people.
Tap into Your Natural Ability
Introverts are adept at building relationships, so true networking is part of our wheelhouse. If you can compartmentalize the inherent awkwardness of these functions, and focus on your interpersonal skills, you can thrive at building real relationships.
Think about being a connector. Are you able to bring others together? Keep your connections organized. Make sure your contact list is updated on your phone so you can share relevant referrals and connections on the spot. Become a go-to person for resources and you’ll naturally build your network and brand.
Bring a Friend
It might sound codependent, but bringing your favorite social butterfly eases a lot of pressure, especially if have to go to an event that you don’t want to attend. Be sure you pick the right friend, the one that is going to make you work the room, not the one that will agree that ditching for drinks and burgers is a better idea.
Schedule Recovery Time
Knowing that this kind of activity drains you, be sure to schedule some downtime. I travel all over the country for work and am basically socializing and networking the entire time. After each trip, I always give myself time to recover. For example, after a business trip, with a long flight, I take the next morning off. I don’t schedule calls, and, when I can, keep my workload light the next day. Knowing that you have quiet time scheduled allows you to give to it your all when you’re “on.” Use the quiet time to send a nice note to the people you met, and connect with them on social media. It’s the follow up and nurturing of the relationship moving forward that’s the real point in taking the time to network.