Oh, the dreaded necessities of growing a business. Nope, not social media. Not even accounting. Networking. The word alone sends chills and feelings of anxiety to anyone who considers themselves an introvert. Let’s take a look at the definition of the word; one who is shy, reserved, bashful, restrictive, quiet and unsociable. And you’re expected to walk up to a complete stranger, extend your hand and proceed to talk about yourself and your business? Really?
Speaking to strangers and boasting about your business, doesn’t come naturally to everyone. In fact, it doesn’t come easy to most. But networking can be one of the most rewarding things to do to enlarge your footprint, drive traffic to your business, create opportunities and even meet business partners.
But networking doesn’t have to get the eye roll, the idea is to connect with new people and new ideas. Just because you’re an introvert, doesn’t mean that everyone needs to know. Be confident, be positive and bring lots of business cards.
Here are 9 things introverts can practice to ease the anxiety of networking:
1. Wear a name badge to easily strike up a conversation. Wearing your name badge with your business name is a great conversation starter for others as well as for you. You may have been looking to compare life insurance quotes and you spot Angela, an insurance rep with Best Ever Life Insurance. It makes it a lot easier to approach her. Start with a simple, ‘Angela, I’ve been wanting to compare our current coverage options with your company. Can you tell me a little about what you offer?’ The conversation goes on from there.
2. Assess the room before moving around. Chances are you’ll see at least one person you’re familiar with already networking. Make your way over to speak and discreetly join in the conversation, after you’ve introduced yourself to the other members of the convo.
3. Make it a fun challenge of who can get the most numbers. Ok, yes this does sound a lot like high school boys at a house party. But come on, who doesn’t love a challenge? Invite a friend to come along with you to the networking event and make a wager before entering. What’s on the line for the person who collects the most business cards? Lunch? A free drink? If it’s a good prize it will definitely entice you to meet as many new faces as possible.
4. Be selective about the Networking events that you attend. Introvert or not, there are some events where you walk in and realize, “This must be the Star Wars networking convention. I don’t have anything in common with anyone here.” Ask questions of the host ahead of time to judge if you should even attend.
5. Stalk the attendees. Not literally stalk but social media stalk. Thanks to facebook we can see who is planning to attend ahead of time. Scroll through the list of people registered and make a list of the ones you’d like to connect with along with some questions to spark conversation when you actually meet.
6. Find a small networking group to join. Networking doesn’t always mean happy hour mixers where hundreds of people in business attire stand around talking stocks and politics. Search your local networking groups through your chamber or similar organizations. Joining a smaller networking group still allows you to meet people in other industries that you may have never known otherwise and share referrals. More than likely these smaller groups will require you to give a 10-15 minute presentation on our business, which in turn will help you to overcome your introversion.
7. Head straight to the bar, for a few reasons. Bartenders are great conversationalists. Strike up small talk with him or her and then slowly include others at the bar around you. But don’t down your drink all at once, take it around the room with you. There’s something about having something in your hand as you circulate the room that makes it less daunting.
8. Have some dialogue starters on standby. It’s not easy thinking of what to say on the spot. Have a few starters in your back pocket for when you meet someone new, other than the normal, “So what do you do?” Try starting a conversation complimenting the venue or host, ask if they heard about a breaking news topic. When in doubt you can always go with old faithful, “Have we met before?”
9. If all else fails and you just can’t take the crowds, reach out to individuals directly to schedule a 1-on-1 coffee or lunch meeting. This is much more personal and less intimidating.