Networking can be an uncomfortable part of marketing yourself, even if you’re an outgoing, extroverted person. But networking when you’re a by-the-book introvert can be an uphill battle. Today, we’ll cover the networking tips for introverts I share the most often with my peers.
First and Foremost: Remember, It’s Not Just You.
I describe myself as an extrovert with introverted tendencies. I’m very outgoing right until I have to be the center of attention. I don’t like all eyes on me, especially when I’m not completely familiar with the people watching me so closely. Then, I can get a little panicky.
The fears and anxieties that are associated with putting yourself out there are not unique to introverts. At some point, we all feel it. We all experience the need and the pressure to impress or to fit in, so you’re not as alone as sometimes you can feel. When I chat with my wedding vendor friends about their networking experiences, I can safely say it’s pretty common feeling between both my outgoing pals and my quieter ones. Reminding myself that this is a universal feeling eases my anxiety, makes me feel less isolated, and helps me warm up faster.
Tackle Events Head On, Not Alone.
A huge roadblock to going to major networking events for many introverts is the consistent worry that they won’t know anyone else. If you already know someone who would be interested in the particular event, bring them along. Bonus points if they’re more extroverted. While you don’t want to end up using them as a crutch, it will probably be easier for you to jump into conversations with strangers if you have a pal there to help break the ice.
Or, Head in Early, and Out Early.
Forget arriving fashionably late. Get to the event as soon as it begins, and you’ll beat the crowd, which will give you the opportunity to network with less pressure. With fewer voices around, you’ll also have more opportunity to join in the conversation if you feel comfortable. When it starts to get too crowded for your comfort, make your exit after you drop off some business cards.
Don’t Worry About Meeting Everyone.
If you’re worried about the scale of the event, another great tactic is to prioritize who you want to meet. Create a top five, or even a top three, and you’ll walk into the event feeling less pressure to be social with everyone. If you hit your target, and you feel you can handle more, great! If not, make a beeline out of there before you get anxious.
Focus on Casual One-on-Ones.
You can also avoid larger networking events altogether. Identify vendors in your area that fit your aesthetic. Shoot them an email, and invite them out to coffee or lunch. More casual settings with fewer people will put less pressure on the both of you. You may also find it gives you more time to relax and properly get to know each other. Building long-term relationships is a huge part of networking. My closest collaborating relationships have all started from an informal coffee meet and greet.
Start a Conversation on Social Media.
If you’re the type that really needs some time to warm up, never fear! Today’s digital world has got your back. When you’ve figured out which vendors you’d really like to get to know, make sure you’re following them on social media. Comment on their work regularly, but only when you’ve got something to say. Comments that are consistently meaningful, constructive, or supportive go a long way toward establishing the foundation of a relationship. When you’re ready to reach out and network in person, the vendor will likely recognize your business name and may be more receptive to meeting with you.
Remember, It’s Not a Bad Thing to Be a Great Listener.
A lot of introverts ding themselves for not being more chatty, but they forget that being a really great listener is a skill, too. Whether you’re networking one-on-one, or in a larger event setting, spend your time digesting what others have to say. Perhaps you hear that one vendor is a big fan of a certain restaurant. Make a mental note of the tidbits you learn (or write it on the back of their business card). When you next meet up, suggest you both head to that restaurant because he or she had raved about it so much. They’ll appreciate that you were listening to what they had to say.
Above all, remember that more than anyone else, you known your own self best. Don’t get caught up in the pressure to be a super hustler and know everyone in town. It’s easy to fall into that trap in the age of social media, but be true to yourself and your personality. Network strategically with vendors and business owners that share the same audience with you. Focus on mutually beneficial relationships, then expand beyond that scope at a pace that is comfortable to you. Best of luck!