It’s easy (they say), network and you will get new clients. Then reality hits: shaking inside, cold sweat dripping down your back. you’re expected to make conversation, stand up and present for 60 seconds, allow people to get to know you and then (maybe) they’ll buy from you. If that’s your experience, these ten networking tips for introverts will help.
What is networking about?
Yes, meeting people is important – but networking is not all about the meetings. Firstly how do you ‘use’ your existing contact base? Networking without meetings is possible. Perhaps the biggest of all networking tips for introverts is to make more from you existing contacts.
Networking without networking meetings IS possible.
Networking is about developing relationships, so you and they feel comfortable in helping each other (that’s referrals). Networking events are simply a way of meeting more people.
The networking problem for introverts
When I first “went networking” I would rather have had teeth extraction without anaesthetic. 12 years later I still find sustaining the emotional energy to keep talking is hard.
10 networking tips for introverts
It’s happened, you have got to go to one of “those” meetings. Here’s 10 networking tips for introverts to help you.
- Relax: No, it’s not easy and the more introverted you are, the harder it is to sustain. However being relaxed makes it easier to be yourself and have fun! This will help your networking. What helps you stay cool, calm and collected (not quiet, stopping in the corner and avoiding people)? Arriving early can help and the odd discreet “loo visit” can help you recharge your emotional batteries.
- Practice makes perfect: How can you spot opportunities to engage in conversation and try your skills? Many years in retail taught me that most shop assistants long for decent conversation, and receptionists revel in it. Or you could just try events outside your area, just to practice.
- Check them out first: Who is going that you already know? They might be good people to start the conversation with, or meet beforehand. That’s a couple of conversations in the bag. Who is going that you don’t know? Google or LinkedIn will help here. I suspect that, like me, you feel more comfortable with some information. It may help know who you’re talking to, or ask them questions (which by the way will demonstrate that you are interested as you’ve done more leg work than most people they’ll be talking to).
- The business card: I’ve never really thought much of business cards, just a step between the handshake and entering the data into my CRM. But it strikes me how much easier it is to start a conversation with ‘I do like you card, because xxx’. So, how does you card stand out? Maybe it’s time to visit a good graphic designer after all.
- Good conversation? Aha, here’s where you tell me you are no good (don’t worry, nor am I). But, I bet that when with good friends you can chat till the cows come home?
- First relax.
- Second – prepare.
- Third – think about questions you can ask. These show interest, and a couple of stock questions will allow you to break any awkward silences. Now, speaking of questions it’s time to listen.
- Good listener? One of the things most people hate (and I’ve asked lots), is the networking bore. They talk, and talk and talk (mainly about themselves). Most networkers far prefer to chat with somebody, like you, who is a good listener. But, that doesn’t mean simply listening (it gets mistaken for disinterest, sleep, or unconsciousness). Active listening (some questions, non verbals and summaries) and real interest will make a huge difference. Try to really engage in the discussion, that’s when the questions flow naturally (even for me).
- The follow up: If you’ve been through all that pain, at least make sure you have a chance of some gain. How will you ‘meet’ these people again? An online connection on LinkedIn allows you to message them and keep in touch. Then another stage of the journey starts.
- Small talk, stock questions: Yes, I hate small talk too. But, it ‘oils’ the conversation and having some subjects in mind makes it easier for you to relax.
- “What’s your connection to the event?” This question can uncover mutual contacts and usually leads to a more robust answer than if you asked the typical
- “Have you been to this event before?”
- “I think the speaker made a really good point about xyz, what do you think of the speaker?” It’s good to inject some of your views and something positive.
- “What keeps you busy when you are not at events like this?” This can help the other person to share her outside interests. That normally injects some positive passion and energy and will help you to do the same.
- “Where are you off to on holiday this year?” This can lead to conversations about family, reveal special interests and help keep a conversation interesting.
- “How did you come to be a xyz?” Their journey can give some interesting clues to what makes them tick (and lead to other questions)
- So, what are your favourite small talk questions and importantly how do you answer them with positive passion?
- Be there, be bright, and be gone. Your words may be forgotten, but how you make people feel will be remembered (and that’s chemistry). So keep the initial conversation short and positive. Aim to agree a follow up (if appropriate) and mix with some more people at the event.
- Don’t mind the gap: Don’t sweat when there’s a brief interlude in a conversation. It may be giving the other person a moment to think, or rest. It may help you think of another of your stock questions. Normal conversation does have some gaps, so stay relaxed. A few pauses in between your sentences will allow you to check the other person is still there and deploy your exit parachute if you need to.
and a bonus – your quick escape
The exit parachute: Nobody wants to be stuck for too long talking to one person. You’ve come to meet a variety of people, so have a couple of ways of politely exiting a conversation whether you want to follow up, or run away!
- I must top up my tea / coffee, do excuse me
- Have you met xyz?
- What sort of person can I introduce you to? Then bring them into the conversation.
- Can we connect on LinkedIn… It’s a good prelude to ending the conversation.
What networking tips for introverts would you offer others?