You probably hear all the time that building connections through networking is important for your personal and professional growth. And this is true. But if the idea of pitching your brand and your ideas to a room full of strangers sounds like your worst nightmare, then this article is for you.
Networking events can be intimidating, especially for introverts. Fortunately, there are ways to network comfortably, even for those who don’t feel as at ease around large groups of people. Here are some strategies for networking for introverts.
Start by Identifying Your Strengths and Interests
For anyone, but particularly for introverts, it may be helpful to first turn your focus to your strengths and interests before networking. This can make the networking process more focused, as well as more enjoyable. By focusing on what you are good at and what you enjoy, you can connect with your passion and self-motivation. This can make networking seem less like a chore and more like an opportunity to share your genuine enthusiasm with others.
Start by thinking about what you enjoy doing and what you're good at. Then, look for networking opportunities that align with your strengths and interests. For example, if you enjoy writing, attend a writing conference. If you're interested in technology, join a technology group. When you're surrounded by like-minded people, it's easier to initiate conversations and build connections.
Prepare Ahead of Time
Preparing for an event ahead of time can help you feel much more comfortable and confident going in. Before attending a networking event, do some research. Find out who will be attending and what the event will be about. This can help you prepare conversation starters and questions to ask. Even if you don’t end up sticking exactly to what you’ve prepared, knowing that you have some fallbacks can provide a sense of relief. This can be extremely helpful in easing anxieties about attending the event.
Showing up to an event after the room is already full of energy and chatter can lead to feeling instantly overwhelmed and drained. On the contrary, arriving early can help you ease into networking. When you arrive early, the environment will be quieter, and there will be fewer people to interact with initially. This can help you get comfortable in the space and make it easier to start conversations with other attendees as they arrive.
Let Your Listening Skills Shine
Introverts are often great listeners, and you can use this to your advantage. When you're in a conversation where you don’t feel as comfortable chiming in with your ideas, listen more and talk less. This can help you get to know others better and understand their goals and interests. It also shows others that you are thoughtful and inquisitive.
This can make you stand out in a room full of people who are focusing on their own interests. Additionally, people appreciate being heard and understood, which can help build trust and rapport.
Networking events can be overwhelming, especially for introverts. It's okay to take breaks when you need them. Excuse yourself and step outside for some fresh air or take a break in a quieter area of the event space. This can help you recharge and feel more comfortable.
Introverts sometimes feel more comfortable expressing themselves through written communication, particularly in the initial stages of meeting someone. This is where following up after an event can come through. After meeting someone at a networking event, follow up with them. This can be a simple email or LinkedIn message.
Following up provides another opportunity to connect. It can be especially helpful if you did not get the chance to communicate your ideas as you would have liked to during the actual event. You can mention something you discussed during the event to help jog their memory. Or you can even start by saying that you are eager to talk with them more about a topic that you didn’t get the chance to discuss as much as you would have liked at the event.
Following up can help you continue to build the relationship and potentially lead to future opportunities.
Utilize Online Networking
Networking doesn't have to be limited to in-person events. In recent years, online or hybrid networking events have become increasingly common. Online networking can be a good option for introverts because it can be less draining for some. They allow you to network from the comfort of your own home, and they often give you more control over who you talk to.
Online networking can be just as effective as in-person events. For advice on how to make the most of a virtual networking event, check out our past blog. Platforms like LinkedIn can help you connect with people in your industry or with similar interests. You can also participate in online forums or groups to build connections with like-minded individuals.
Networking is an extremely valuable tool for personal and professional growth. But it can be intimidating, especially for the more introverted among us. It is okay to be nervous about networking; it can be nerve-racking for anyone. However, by being intentional about the way that you approach networking, it can be made much more comfortable and effective. You’ve got this!
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