4 Networking Rules for the Introvert
Networking is increasingly becoming a must in our society nowadays.
Networking refers to the interaction of two or more people with the purpose of exchanging ideas and information. Simple in theory but can quickly become a nightmare in practice.
Unless you are Tom Hanks talking to a coconut on a desert island, you are most likely networking quite often to some extent. Be it with friends, colleagues, family members or other acquaintances. The big majority of us would be comfortable in those situations, as we do this systematically on a day to day basis.
However, for physical face-to-face interactions at conferences, seminars, work dinners or any similar dreadful events, let face it, we just want to run away and cry for help.
Except for a few lucky people out there, those gatherings just do not feel right. Being in a room full of unknown people and seeing everyone talking to each other can be like being dropped in an ocean full of sharks. If you could just disappear or vanish, you would.
Unfortunately, there is a point where you cannot avoid a full-fledged networking event. Myself being an introvert I took a liking in marketing and obviously had to deal with those situations quite a lot. Truth be told, I still do not feel comfortable before going out networking, but I get through and make the most out of it for the sake of my career and work responsibilities.
Until networking for work becomes second nature, there are are rules to help tackle those situations and “survive the encounter”. Those helped me quite a bit at the start of my career and even now I found myself using those unintentionally. Bottom line, it works and provides a big boost to your confidence while contributing to a positive networking outcome.
#1. Be Rational and Fact-Based
In a fear-inducing situation, our mind has a tendency to exaggerate everything. Taking this to a “networking event” context, we see everyone there as intimidating as a lion is to a gazelle. People with a strong purpose eventually think of us as being petty and insignificant. In other words, they are the predators and you are the prey. The actual truth is that the majority are as uncomfortable as you, and for some, maybe even more so than you. Putting things in perspective allows to reduce this fear factor and be on the same level as others.
#2. Prepare in Advance and Set an Objective
Most likely when attending an event, you already have a lead on a few prospects, potential business partners or any other like-minded people. Research them! The amount of information might surprise you when searching online on Google or LinkedIn. A quick check can provide you with juicy conversation material, or even better, lead to a future work opportunity. Bonus if you can leverage your online network. For instance, you might meet people you previously interacted with on LinkedIn. In such cases, you will have a good head-start!
#3. Give a Quick Introduction and Make it Worthwhile
Introduce yourself with a firm handshake, keep eye contact and smile, and then use the elevator pitch: expose your job and responsibilities in less than 30 seconds without being obnoxious. The idea here is to quickly provide enough material to trigger the conversation. Practice and master this.
#4. Move Around, Do Not Stick With People
Do not try to keep up with the same person you previously managed to connect with. Remember that they need to network as well. First, you will lose your time and second, but most importantly you will lose theirs. If you realize that the conversation drags, be the one to move out first and not the one being left out. Show control.
Last But Not Least: Go in Solo
Not a rule by itself but rather a recommendation I would make which might go against the flow. A lot of articles out there suggest bringing a "co-networker" so that you be more at ease in awkward situations. In my humble opinion, go in solo. The reason is simple: bringing someone over might prevent you from networking as you should. They might (or not) introduce you to some people but you will most likely stay by their side during the event to stay secure and lose quite a bit of time doing so. Unless of course, you feel confident that you will "use" him/her only to ease the introductions and go on your merry way.
Like everything in life practice is key. Those four principles will help overcome the dread of having to attend a networking event, help you reduce any feeling of insecurity and, doing so, allow you to show more confidence. Be rational, be prepared and be focused. When you step inside the room, forget your fears and weaknesses, you are the one prowling!
© 2019 Maxwell Scott Goodman