Networking is a powerful tool for growing your business, but it doesn’t always come easy for people – especially introverts. If you’ve ever found yourself hiding out in the bathroom or pretending to be on the phone when you’re faced with the uncomfortable situation of being in a room with people you don’t know, you’re not alone.
Introverts are often described as quiet and shy, but the truth is that’s not what makes networking so hard. Your level of introversion or extroversion has little to do with your ability to speak to people and more to do with where and how you collect and manage your energy.
Whereas extroverts typically thrive and feel energized by being around people, introverts need alone time to recharge their batteries. All that “people-ing” can often lead an introvert to feeling drained. And just like any other experience, when you don’t feel good doing something, you’ll tend to shy away from it.
The problem is, the more you avoid it, the more you reinforce the story that networking is hard. Here are three tips to help you to overcome the fear and be a more effective networker.
1. Prepare in advance
One of the most challenging parts about networking is knowing what to say. Knowing how to introduce yourself and spark up a conversation doesn’t come naturally to everyone. If you’re someone who avoids that uncomfortable feeling by jetting off to the bathroom to avoid conversation, one of the best things you can do is prepare in advance.
How will you introduce yourself? What’s your 30-second elevator pitch when someone asks you what you do? What questions can you ask someone to help spark conversation?
Preparing in advance will not only ensure you’re intentional with your efforts, but it will also help to reduce the fear associated with networking because you’ll feel better equipped. The more prepared you are, the more effective you’ll be.
2. Set a conversation goal
Natural networkers can work a room like no one’s business. But if the thought of having to work the room freaks you out, try setting a goal for how many conversations you want to have. Many introverts will push themselves to go to a networking event but the minute the fear sets in, they run and hide.
One of the greatest gifts introverts possess is their desire and ability to make meaningful connections with people. A great strategy to help you bring more intimacy to a large event is to set a conversation goal. Whether it’s three, five or 10 people, pick a number that you feel comfortable with. This will help you to focus on the conversation at hand (without feeling overwhelmed), allowing you to build better connections. Once you achieve that goal, you can decide whether you want to continue or call it a night.
3. Have a follow-up plan
No matter where you are on the spectrum of introversion/extroversion, one of the most important things to do after a networking event is to follow up. Here’s where the introverts have the upper hand.
Introverts tend to be great listeners due to their more cautious approach to conversations. And as you learned earlier, they also tend to naturally gravitate to focusing on the quality of conversations versus the quantity. If you’ve ever been around a good listener, you’ll quickly notice how easy it is to have a conversation with them. The space that introverts provide invites people to share, which means you’ll likely have picked up on a few key points you can follow up with.
Following-up is a critical piece to effective networking. Pick one thing you learned about the person you were speaking with and bring it in the conversation when you follow up with your call, email or text. This will not only help that person feel acknowledged, but it will also help build rapport and ultimately help build trust.
What things do you avoid in your business because of fear or overwhelm? DM me on Instagram @michellerisi (it might just be my next article).
Michelle Risi was named one of the Top 50 women in Canadian real estate. She is a Forbes published CEO, broker/owner of Royal LePage Connect Realty and founder of the Aligned Agent Academy. Her passion is in helping entrepreneurs create success with self-discovery, mindset and brain-based productivity tips.