How To Network When You're a Complete Introvert
We all know that networking can work wonders for your career. After all, it’s sometimes about who you know rather than what you know on this weird little planet.
But, if the thought of standing in a room full of people and being forced to make conversation and uh “sell yourself” makes you cringe beyond belief - you’re not alone. In fact, you’re in the right place.
And, who can really blame us for hating face-to-face interaction?
We were the kids who were brought up online; we wore our feelings in our MSN names and our only friends were on MySpace.
Years later, while we’ve grown up, we still don’t quite know how to interact with… other humans (ew).
But, in all seriousness, whether you’re introverted or extroverted, networking can be daunting. I’ve rounded up my best tips on how to smash your next networking event.
Pick your battles.
Choose the events that suit you.
Personally, I find the most awkward networking events are the ones where you’re just left to mingle. There’s no structure and no one really knows what there supposed to be doing as they awkwardly clutch their instant coffees and complain about how tired they are.
Some of the best sessions I’ve been to are the ones where it’s structured and there’s some set topics to discuss within a certain time frame.
Having a set topic means that you don’t have to think of conversation starters and everyone feels like there in the same boat.
Do some pre-event research.
Social media is a great way to find out who’s going to be attending your event. Find out if there’s a set Twitter hashtag or Facebook group and do some digging.
You should be able to find at least a couple of attendees.
Then, at the event, when you bump into them, you can be all like:
“I think I’ve seen your stuff on Instagram - you post some great Stories!” or “I saw your article on climate change and love what your company is doing to improve its sustainability”.
Your mini investigative session can break the ice and show people that you’re interested in what they do.
Prepare some questions.
Make a few notes on what you could ask people when the conversation runs dry. There’s nothing worse than that tumbleweed moment where you both have no idea what to say to each other.
Some examples are:
What do you do?
What are you interested in?
How did you end up doing what you’re doing now?
Have you had a long day?
Don’t you just hate networking?
Make sure most of the questions are open ended and can’t be answered with a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’. What’s good about this technique is that most people naturally want to talk about themselves, so if you set them off, you won’t have to do much talking!
Prepare some answers.
While you don’t want to come across scripted, it’s a good idea to have some key ideas in mind of the messages you’d like to get across to people.
Some people say that you should prepare a full-on Elevator Pitch where you describe yourself in a really punchy way in about 30 seconds. I don’t think this is 100% necessary, but it does help to get who you are and what you do across to people in a succinct way.
I find it really useful to have some things in mind so you’re not put on the spot when someone asks the dreaded “so, what do you do?” question.
Take a friend.
Partner up with someone so that you don’t have to walk into the big scary room alone.
This could be someone who is a networking native who can show you the ropes, or someone who finds networking just as nerve-wracking as you do.
I wouldn’t recommend you sticking with them for the whole session. Split up and go speak with new people. But, rest assured that - if you find yourself feeling a little lost - you always have a back up person to go and talk to.
Don’t get your phone out.
It’s easy to grab your phone when you’re stood on your own, but the worst thing you can do is stand scrolling when you’re at a networking event.
No one will approach you if you’re closed off from them looking “busy” tapping away on your phone. And, this only makes things harder for you.
Remember, you don't have to go.
While I can see the value of face-to-face networking, if you are terrified and feel completely out of your comfort zone - it’s going to be easy for people to spot.
Sometimes, networking isn’t right for some people and that’s okay.
Largely thanks to the internet - there are plenty of ways that you can get your name out there without attending a single networking event. In fact, some of the most successful people don’t do traditional networking.
If you want to know more ways of networking, I’m going to be writing a blog post soon on alternative ways of networking. If you’d like to see this please leave me a comment below.