Networking for Introverts: 4 Tips to Fuel Your Self-ConfidenceLast Updated: January 1, 2019
In business, introversion can be a source of huge strength, but anything requiring extroversion will often leave introverts in a cold sweat. The bad news is, this is unsustainable, given the importance of reputation, visibility and word of mouth marketing. The good news is, even introverts can play to their strengths in this most social of marketing arenas.
Criss Jami is a 28-year-old philosopher, poet, essayist and frontman of Washington DC-based rock band Venus In Arms. His 2015 book Killosophy nails networking for introverts in a single-sentence encapsulation of how an introvert might feel about attending a business networking event for the first time: “Telling an introvert to go to a party,” he writes, “is like telling a saint to go to Hell.”
“Telling an introvert to go to a party is like telling a saint to go to Hell.”
While Jami’s assertion may well be true, all it does is illustrate the enormity of the obstacle that must be surmounted. Because in a world where any viable alternative to word of mouth marketing has yet to emerge, networking is absolutely essential.
It’s all about making connections and creating your own mutually beneficial spheres of influence, and only functions when you accept that it’s not about who you know, but who knows you.
But introverts, regardless of their business acumen, can find the prospect of mingling with strangers horrifying. What their anxiety can cloud, of course, is their awareness of their own strengths.
Introverts, typically, tend to focus intently on their output; enjoy meaningful one-to-one discussions; and avoid large groups and ‘small talk’ or conversation that has no purpose. Therefore, they should play to their strengths.
Playing to your strengths is what any introvert will be exhorted to do, particularly by such acclaimed writers who make a virtue of introversion, including Susan Cain and her excellent Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, and Laurie Helgoe, with her similarly brilliant Introvert Power: Why Your Inner Life is Your Hidden Strength.
Approaching networking in a focused and incremental way will soon reap benefits. Here is how to nail networking for introverts, in 4 useful tips.
1. Don’t do it cold
Chances are you’ve already made connections online, some of whom you may have not met. This can set up an ideal excuse for a pre-meeting coffee to have a chat and calm your nerves. Settling down is the primary goal when it comes to networking for introverts.
The ‘pre-show’ meet-up can be a great ice-breaker, and give you a confidence boost to enter the networking meeting untroubled by anxiety. Even if this is not possible, try to find out who will be there, and do some research—company bios, LinkedIn or other social media profiles, or anything that will make initial encounters less of an uncomfortable ‘cold call.’
2. Try Not to Focus on Networking ‘Champs’
Networking is not a competitive sport. It’s a gathering of people with similar interests, who, through association might either create something new, or, more often, provide help that will be to the benefit of their respective businesses.
Hold on to that thought as you see the networking champions work the room. They have the networking thing down to the proverbial ‘T’—it’s their comfort zone.
Prepare your own ‘script’ and stick to it. Have a clear set of objectives. If you’re a newcomer, think about it in sustainable terms—start out small and build incrementally.
Get yourself one new contact at the first meeting, and aim to increase it progressively at every meeting.
Even if you just make one new contact per meeting, you’re in good shape. Contacts lead to other contacts.
3. Think ‘One-to-One’
If there is someone that it’s important for you to connect with at the meeting, aim to manoeuvre yourself and them into one-on-one conversations, and do your best to establish common ground.
As long as you’ve researched their backstory beforehand, even the most bare-boned biographical detail can serve as your internal bullet-pointed conversation points.
Most importantly, while in conversation, don’t stem the natural ‘back and forth’ flow by constantly thinking about what you are going to ask next.
While introverts are known for their powers of listening, it can be easy to be overcome by nerves.
4. Helping Out
You can often attend networking events where you will find that reputations can fall into one of two categories—a “giver” or “not a giver”.
Givers do not give anything more than their time, but those who make the effort to bring together people who may not have met in different circumstances are often regarded as the best networkers—it’s about quality in depth, rather than width.
In devising a strategy of networking for introverts, it’s vital for the introvert to focus and think about what they do, what they have done, their skills, and how these might be put to use in different areas.
At this point, while listening to your new acquaintance , draw the dots between what they need and what you have to offer, or what those in your own circle may have to offer that might lead to mutually beneficial business relationships.
In the end, networking is an important means of marketing—it’s about playing to your strengths. You should recognise that your introversion is not a weakness, but a strength. Adapting a special networking for introverts strategy acknowledges this.
As Laurie A. Helgoe writes in Introvert Power: Why Your Inner Life is Your Hidden Strength, “Isn’t it refreshing to know that what comes perfectly natural for you is your greatest strength? Your power is in your nature. You may not think it’s a big deal that you can spend hours immersed in something that interests you—alone—but the extrovert next door has no idea how to do it.”