The art of shaking hands and kissing babies is beloved by some and feared by others. Namely introverts.
But, no matter how many social media platforms we create, face-to-face networking is not going away. So let’s chat about it, shall we?
Introverts are people who draw their energy from being alone or in small groups with people they know. Typically, they have a few amazing friends they build very deep and meaningful relationships with rather than have a ton of acquaintances.
Introverts often think first and talk…maybe never because they are introspective. That means when you’re talking they are actually thinking about what you’re saying. In large group settings, topics change so frequently because of the “look at that shiny thing over there” extroverts. Because of this, sometimes introverts don’t get a chance to share their processed thoughts. It’s important to note that introvert does NOT equal shy.
Now that I have politely stereotyped you, here are my five tips for your next networking event, alumni dinner, professional social, etc., my introverted friends:
1. Ask For Advice
When you’re in a conversation with someone, take the opportunity to ask for some advice. Introverts are practiced listeners, so ask a question or questions that will get others talking for a while.
2. Set Realistic Networking Goals
Set a realistic goal for how many new conversations you want to have. Rather than overwhelming yourself thinking you to play 20 questions with everyone in the room, simply set a goal to meet three new people. After each, reward yourself with some alone time: go outside for a breather, grab a drink, use the restroom and flip through Instagram.
3. Bring a Wing-Person
If you’re worried about breaking the ice and starting conversations, bring a wing-person. Ask a good conversation initiator to come along with you. Bring someone who doesn’t mind the awkward small talk at the beginning of a conversation, then you can jump in on the conversation once there is more substance.
4. Play to your strengths!
As an introvert, you are a deep relationship developer. For this reason, introverts have the potential to be better networkers in the long run than their extroverted counterparts. You listen more, ask deeper questions, and build lasting relationships…if that’s not sexy, I don’t know what is!
5. You Have Something To Offer – You
Realize that you are worthy of being in any conversation! I have actually heard introverts say things like: “I don’t have anything to add to the conversation” or “I felt weird saying anything…” – remember that you do have something to add to the conversation and that your comments will never be scrutinized by anyone else as much as they are by you.
My introverted friends, I hope that this makes the idea of networking a little more manageable. If you have thoughts about introverts and networking or just want to practice, you can find me here.
James Robilotta is a professional speaker, improv performer, author and entrepreneur. James is a graduate of the University of North Carolina Wilmington and earned a master’s degree from Clemson University.