I once had an introvert say to me: “I’d rather clean the floor of Grand Central Station with my own toothbrush than network.”
Does this describe you?
Needless to say, the fear and loathing of going to a networking event isn’t fun for even the most outgoing people at times. Despite all that grim outlook, there are things you can go to minimize the bigger issues.
Obstacle #1: Not knowing anyone. The problem with this is that you have no “frame of reference” which is to say, you don’t know them and therefore you have no clue about what to talk about. It’s like looking into a black hole.
Solution: Everyone you know today, except your family, was once a stranger. You have to think of all of those strangers as friends you just haven’t met so far. Approach people as if you are there to meet your new BFF. Be friendly and go up to people and introduce yourself. Try to pick people who either isn’t in a conversation or the conversation has come to a lull.
Obstacle #2: Not knowing what to say. OK, you approach the person and your mind goes blank. You don’t know what to say, because you don’t know this person. You may be concerned that they don’t really want to talk to you.
Solution: Introverts do enjoy developing relationships in a more intimate one-on-one setting; Work your magic by introducing yourself, sharing your name and getting theirs. Consider coming up with a couple of opening questions ahead of time. I usually use the event as a place to start: “How long have you participated in this group?” What do you know about our speaker tonight?”
Obstacle #3: How to keep the conversation going. Although you can start with the “easy” questions, then the concern turns to how do you keep the conversation going? You don’t want to stand there in deadly silence with both people painfully uncomfortable.
Solution: Find a topic you both can talk about at some length. You might start with probing them about your interests. A friend of mine usually starts with his “big 3” – fishing, golfing and motorcycles. (Not exactly woman centric but he does adjust) I usually ask them what some of their leisure activities are. This can really energize a new, budding relationship.
Obstacle #4: How to end a conversation. Every conversation comes to a natural end. The problem is how to gracefully exit without coming across like a jerk.
Solution: Start your exit with a transition and compliment. Then say you must go but offer to follow up or connect someone to them. Then say goodbye. You don’t need to offer some lame excuse. Everyone knows all chat comes to an end so don’t stress yourself out. Here is an example: “I’ve really enjoyed chatting with you this evening. I really need to go but let’s exchange business cards so we can connect over coffee real soon. Talk to you later.”
Bonus: One of my favorite places to meet people is in a buffet line. It’s a captive audience and only lasts for a few minutes. Shake hands, introduce yourself and ask about them and what brings them to this event. If you’re interested follow up later.
Think of networking like going to the gym. The more you go the better shape you’ll be in.
It takes one to know one. I too, have successfully managed and coached for over 2 decades, as an introvert. If you’d like to learn more on introvert adaptation strategies and other insights to help make you successful, claim your FREE copy of my ongoing newsletter – full of useful, practical career insight. When you do, you also receive a copy of the eworkbook “Should I Stay or Should I Go” Click here to claim your copy: Get your copy of “Should I Stay or Should I Go!”
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