Attending a networking event means attending a non-structured environment. And the test of a non-structured environment is determining how to handle ourselves, when to make adjustments and finally deciding how much is enough. For the extrovert, networking is easy. Walk in and mingle. Enter existing conversations, introduce yourself and continue until the group thins out and you no longer have anyone left to talk to.
But for the introvert there are the constant butterflies while facing a group you don't want to expose yourself to. Managing the desire to walk away is the biggest challenge. At least until you exercise a few key tips.
Networking tips for the Introvert
- Tip: Look for someone who is hanging off to the side. We don't have to step into groups and existing conversations. We aren't wired that way. All we need do is find someone on the edges who is looking like the way we feel.
- Tip: Then walk up and say what you're thinking - "I don't know about you, but I prefer one-to-one connections at these events." They'll almost always agree with us, grin, shake our hand and say what they've been thinking, too. This opens the communication to one of true connection.
- Tip: Use your slow, natural pace. You'll have time for thinking and the introvert you're connecting to will have time for thinking as well.
- Tip: Set a goal of how many people to meet. This could be 3-5 people that we can handle before we need to walk away and recharge. I usually set a goal of three business cards to walk away with. I know I've met my goal when I've connected with 3 people that I want to reconnect with, for whatever reason. Maybe I've had 6 conversations - my goal is to walk away with 3 cards from new people or those I've met before that now I realize is someone to have coffee with for a particular reason. The cards in my pocket tell me when it's time to leave. Otherwise I keep walking along the fringes of the group to seek that next person, who like me, would rather be somewhere else. Except that they need to network to keep business going.
- Tip: Just say your first name. Folks connect easily when we simply say who we are vs. what we are. In time the work that we do will surface, but we don't have to push it out in front of us. We just need to be who we are.