“Let’s clear one thing up: Introverts do not hate small talk because we dislike people. We hate small talk because we hate the barrier it creates between people.”
Networking For Introverts
You enjoy spending time by yourself. Your best thinking happens when you are alone. You lead best when others are self-starters. Some may call you shy or aloof. You simply call yourself an introvert.
According to Susan Cain’s The Power of Introverts TED Talk presentation, more than 50 percent of the U.S. workforce self-identify as introverts. Depending on your role, being an introvert can be challenging in the workplace, especially when it comes to skills like networking.
We share the advice below for introverts on how to be effective at networking when the last thing they want to do is talk to a room full of people. Being shy myself, I know that networking can be terrifying!!
- Have a standard opener. There’s nothing more uncomfortable for an introvert than walking up to a group of people to introduce yourself. The key is to remember that everyone is there for the same reason: to meet people. Everyone is insecure; some are just better at hiding it than others. One key strategy is to have a standard opening line ready to go. Dale Carnegie, the author of Making Friends and Influencing People, always said that the best way to meet people is to get them talking about their favorite subject: themselves. So, a great opener can be as simple as “What brings you here?” Then follow up with “Sounds really interesting. What are you looking for today? Perhaps I can help.”
- Develop your elevator pitch. Of course, at some point, the attention will turn to you and you’ll have to talk about yourself. This may seem obvious, but it’s amazing how many people don’t think about how they are going to talk about themselves until someone asks them, and then it’s either 20 seconds of awkward silence or 20 minutes of mindless yammering. Be prepared by sharing a very short intro about yourself that you’ve already thought about and perhaps practiced saying out loud. After your pitch, pivot back to a question about them. Talk about yourself for 30 seconds and then ask them a question—have some well thought-out talking points ready in your head.
- Choose your people. Before the event find a list of attendees, do some online research about them and pick the ones you want to know. If you feel comfortable with it, connect online prior to the event and arrange a quick one-on-one session during a break at the event. This often allows you to have a more substantive conversation since you will know a bit about each other from the start.
- Pace yourself and be strategic. Before the event set a realistic quota of how many contacts you’d like to meet. For your first couple of events start out with a small number so you can feel proud of yourself and build on that number. Ensure that you allow time to recharge, whether by taking a short walk, a restroom break or checking out the venue. Resist the urge to try and be in constant ‘On’ mode.
- Collect business cards and write on them. While this is a standard practice, business cards are extremely useful for collecting and writing details of the conversation on. And it seems more polite than taking notes on your phone.
- Follow Up. The worst thing you can do, but what most people do anyway, is go to a networking event, meet a ton of people and never have any contact with them again. Why waste their time and yours? Depending on your goals, you can follow up in ways that you are most comfortable. Send a personal email or send a message via LinkedIn. The message doesn’t have to be long—short and simple will do.
Don’t avoid networking just because it’s a bit uncomfortable for you. By managing your networking with these key strategies, you can develop a crucial connection that will take you and your business to the next level of success.
Source: Michael S. Solomon is co-founder and managing partner of 10x Management, the world’s first tech talent agency for best in class freelance technologists.
Compiled by Cassandra Johnson