For introverts, the mere thought of networking is draining. It’s a hard world out there for introverts, especially in a digital business culture where it seems that everybody is visible.
I think there is a perception that being an introvert makes it difficult for you to run a business, if not completely exclude you from running that race.
Many of the skills we need to run a successful business like selling, presenting, networking is both natural and comfortable for an extrovert.
Attending a networking event requires an immense amount of effort for an introvert and can absolutely exhaust you to the point where it ruins your day. This does not mean that introverts need to sit on the sidelines and there are many ways to succeed at networking.
Being an introvert doesn’t mean you are shy or cannot talk to people. Extroverts get pleasure from interacting with others, whilst introverts gain energy from peace and solitude.
Fear not. There is a way for you to use your energy and play to your strengths in a situation that might usually drain you of energy.
Introverts have unique characteristics that enable them to build deeper connections with others. Let’s face it, networking is all about building connections. You don’t have to be the loudest, most confident extrovert in the room to be successful at networking. In fact, I would say being an introvert is a benefit!
Here’s the thing……
Online networking is your greatest ally. Yes really!
There has never been a better time to be an introverted business owner. The power of the internet means that you can start and grow a business without even leaving home. Although I wouldn’t recommend this!
With the increase and ever growing digital world, there has also been a crazy increase in online networking. As an online networker you can still build a strong network from the peace and quiet of your kitchen table.
Online networking is not about dropping links and running and constantly being in sell, sell, sell, spammy pammy mode.
Pick the best channels to interact with your target audience on. Your best bet is to choose a couple to start with and interact on them.
Because you’re an introvert it’s likely you will only post stuff when you feel like you have got something important to say. This is a benefit!
Interacting online with thoughtful things and responding with great comments with value is important. You may think this is no big deal. But in the noisy, overcrowded world of the internet, thoughtful, well-considered comments are at a premium. You are less likely to comment with random, “ÿes that’s nice!” or “yes!” or “100%” that we see daily. Just take a look on the social channels, comments like this are everywhere! There isn’t necessarily anything wrong with these type of comments – a quick hello or response is great. But interacting in a more meaningful way and making deeper connections will open doors if you create a rapport with the person you are talking to, even in the online world.
Online networking is never about taking something. It’s always about providing value.
Join online groups and communities to help you up your online networking game. There are literally millions of them. When the online groups are managed properly, connections do happen. There are lots of free ones and these do have some value. In my experience, some of the best ones tend to be paid.
Pick ones that suit your industry. When you do join them, here are a few tips to help you make valuable connections:
- Post content which gives value to others. Avoid just promoting your business. Share your top tips.
- Ask and answer questions. Reach out to somebody and suggest a call if they have posted a call for help.
- Be active in groups every day. You don’t need to do this for more than a few minutes a day per group.
- Choose no more than five or six groups.
- DON’T join hundreds of groups and show-up only on the promo days.
Now that you have mastered the art of online-networking, give in-person networking a try. Online networking is truly powerful, but nothing quite beats human in-person connections.
There are ways of making in-person networking enjoyable even if you are an introvert. Extroverts attend as many networking events as possible. They live for high-energy and to talk to as many people as possible. They will gather a high number of connections due to this. That doesn’t mean they will take the time out to build deeper connections. This isn’t always the best way to network. The extrovert’s eagerness to attend lots of events may result in them attending events that do not have much value. Whereas, an introvert will quietly reflect on the ones that can provide them with the most value before deciding to attend. This is an advantage if you are an introvert!
Here are a few tips:
- Pick your events carefully.
- If you are an introvert tell the organizer this. Most organisers of well-run networking events will show empathy and support you. If somebody tells me they are an introvert before an event and are feeling nervous, I will tell them to arrive early and will make sure they are introduced to people I know will make them feel at ease. I would NEVER leave an introvert to stand there feeling uncomfortable on their own. I will do the icebreakers for you so you don’t have to and before you know it, you will be happily chatting and forget your nerves.
Being on your own in a room full of strangers is one of the things that stops an introvert from attending an event. If you join a community which has an online aspect, more often than not, there will be somebody present whose name you know from the community. This in itself will help you to feel more comfortable. This will really help to boost your confidence.
Having some emotional support is so helpful for introverts during taxing networking events. This could be the organizer or a familiar name from the online community.
- Arrive at the event early. It’s less stressful to arrive when the room is emptier.
- Be the person that listens – many extroverts talk-away without giving the other person time to say anything. Building connections is a two-way street. The fact that you will listen and quietly show interest will definitely score you more points. People appreciate a listener who indulges them in what they do. You are that person.
- Don’t compete. Instead give compliments. As an introvert you are more likely to be constantly overthinking what you are going to say. You don’t need to compete with the gregarious extroverts around you.
- Gear your conversation towards the other person. Let them do most of the talking. This gives you more time to think through your comments when you do need to respond.
- Don’t worry about having to ‘sell’ yourself. Nobody likes a seller! People are more interested in somebody who wants to make genuine and sincere connections.
- Show interest in the other person. It doesn’t always have to be about business. Compliment them on what they are wearing or that their hair looks nice or you love their shoes!
- Don’t worry about gaining a new client or striking up a collaboration at your first networking event. Instead, approach it as if you are making a new connection. If you want to exchange business cards with someone, do it. If not, you don’t need to force yourself. For you, it’s all about making genuine connections that go deeper than gathering as many business cards as you can.
- Set a goal of making connections. These connections may bring benefits further down the line such as other introductions, collaborations and even friendships!
- If you attend an event and you feel tired from chatting, take ten minutes out and go and recharge. This could be grabbing a quick coffee or taking a walk outside. This will definitely help you to maintain your stamina to see the networking event through to the bitter end! You can do this as many times as you need to.
- Don’t look around and think just because other people are gathering high volumes of business cards and you are not, this is a bad thing. It’s not.
- Do remember to follow-up with the connections you have made. Write down all the salient details that you can include in a friendly follow-up email.
- Don’t just follow up with people who you think will buy something from you. Follow-up with everyone you took the time out to speak to. Remember they took the time out to speak to you too.
- If you spoke to somebody and the conversation was un-related to business, follow up with them too. Maintaining these types of connections often bear fruit later on. It’s always great to stay in touch, especially if you really got along. A simple “It was fantastic speaking you with at the event. I really enjoyed hearing about xxxxx. I’d love to stay in touch. Are you going to any events soon? Let’s stay connected on email, Facebook, LinkedIn etc.”.
- Challenge yourself to get yourself out there. Introverts can get stuck in a place of thinking they look stupid, shy or weird to others – but in truth, who cares and so do other people, even the extroverts!
- Remember people buy from people. Different characters will naturally gravitate to the extroverts, but some won’t! Some will naturally be drawn to you. You may even find you start enjoying networking as an introvert.
Are you an introvert?
Were these tips helpful?
Keep calm and introvert on!
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