Networking is an important part of business – and we do a lot of it here at projectfive. But we know it doesn’t come naturally to everyone.
So here’s an article from our Marketing Executive, Suzanne, as she shares An Introvert’s Guide to Networking.
Hi, my name is Suzanne and I’m an introvert.
Well, to be more accurate, I’m an extroverted-introvert – I like people and enjoy socialising, but it drains me, so I need quiet, alone-time to re-charge my batteries.
There’s a common misconception over what constitutes an introvert or an extrovert – it’s not about how you behave socially, it’s about what you need to feel re-energised.
According to Psychology Today, introverts are drained by social encounters (even though they may enjoy them) and are re-energised by time alone to decompress. By contrast, extroverts replenish their energy by being with other people.
But how does an introvert flourish at work? It’s no secret that the work arena is geared towards extroverts. So how do us introverts navigate that, and in particular, the world of networking, which is such an integral part of business?
Here are my tips for managing your introversion at networking events – and using it to your advantage:
1. Pre-event nerves are a result of worrying about what might happen. How many people might be there. What if you freeze and can’t think of anything to say? Your fear is simply your perception of what could happen. Try not to waste your energy on worrying ahead of time – you’ll be drained before you even get there! And I can 99% guarantee it will never be anything like the image you’ve conjured in your head
2. Remember that everyone feels slightly awkward at networking events – even the biggest character in the room. Whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert; walking into a room full of people you don’t know and having to introduce yourself doesn’t come naturally to most of us!
3. A smile goes a long way – yes, really! It’s simple, but smiling at someone will instinctively make them smile back, which immediately breaks down that first barrier. Smiling also softens your soft palate, which makes your voice sound more friendly (and less nervous), which in turn will create a relaxed start to the conversation.
4. You don’t need to be the life and soul of the party – as an introvert who does a lot of networking, I have come to realise that you don’t have to make a big entrance and be the one visibly exuding immediate confidence, wit and volume! It’s ok to go in, make eye contact and smile and start a low-key (but genuine) conversation with someone by the coffee station. You have nothing to prove to anyone.
5. Use your superpower – as an introvert you have the natural ability to forge a deeper connection with people. You are hard-wired to be a good listener and an inciteful question asker. Already, that sets you apart from many others in the room who are busy rolling out their well-rehearsed sales pitch, while you’re laying the foundations for a longer-lasting relationship.
6. Don’t always talk shop – in fact, I very rarely talk about IT support at any of the networking events I go to. I find it easier to make a connection by not talking about business, which may sound counter-intuitive, but once you connect with people about their kids, their homelife, hobbies or common interests; they drop the business façade and you get to see the real person – which ultimately leads to a more genuine connection.
7. Manage your diary – if you know that a lunchtime networking session (however much you’ve enjoyed it) will drain you, don’t book an evening one on the same day!
8. Depth over breadth is ok – you may find that as an introvert you forge fewer relationships than your extroverted colleagues. But your connections will be deeper and that’s worth its weight in gold.
9. Opt for quiet over loud – where possible (and if you get a choice over the events you attend), put yourself forward for the smaller, more intimate ones, in which you know you’ll be at your best. Remember that networking events come in all shapes and sizes!
10. Build and maintain – networking is not just about building relationships, it’s about maintaining them too – and as an introvert you’re good at that!