By Kristen Harris
NETWORKING. Just the word can send a chill down the spine of an introvert.
When someone says, “do you want to go to this networking event?” I envision everything I hate—walking into a room full of strangers, an overload of social chitchat, needing to interrupt others to get a word in edgewise, shaking hands and handing out cards to everyone in the room, pitching my business or myself a thousand times—ugh. Let me just go home and curl up with a good book instead. If this is how you feel, you’re probably an introvert too.
I have some good news for us! Networking events don’t have to be painful. They can productive, useful, and maybe even fun.
Here are 10 Tips to Help Introverts Make the Most of Networking Events:
Go with a friend. It’s intimidating to walk into a room full of strangers. Invite a co-worker or friend with similar interests. Go together, or arrange to meet at or near the event so you can walk in together.
Give yourself a goal. When you’re considering whether to attend an event, think about what you can and want to get out of it. Assuming it’s a good fit for you, set a goal before you get to the event. It could be to meet three new people, get to know members of the board, or accept your award without tripping on the stage. It’s your goal, embrace it.
Set a time frame. Before attending the event, decide when you’ll arrive and how long you’re going to stay. If you’re having so much fun that you don’t want to leave, that’s great! But if your “exit” time rolls around and you’re ready to go, leave without guilt. You met your commitment.
Get to know a few people well. Introverts tend to gain energy from fewer, deeper relationships. If you meet someone you like, spend a little time with them. Getting to know a few people well can be more powerful than shaking hands with everyone but not being remembered by anyone.
Ask for introductions. Look for someone you already know, and ask for an introduction to the person they’re talking to...now you know two people! If you go with a friend, introduce each other to people you know. If you meet someone that you like, ask them to introduce you to someone else. Introductions build your network and relationships in a meaningful, memorable way.
Have fun. Yes, events can be stressful. Focus on the parts that you enjoy…meeting a couple of interesting people, delicious food, a cool venue. Introverts really hate feeling embarrassed, and often think they did or said something awkward that EVERYONE noticed. Believe me, no one noticed or will remember, they’re all too focused on themselves. Just enjoy yourself. One note—if there are drinks involved, know your limit. People often drink more when they’re nervous, which can lead to those embarrassing moments.
Reward yourself. After the event, spend a little time doing something you really enjoy, and congratulate yourself on stepping out of your comfort zone.
Follow up after the event. Within a day or two of the event, reach out to anyone you met and want to maintain a connection. Send a LinkedIn invitation, or link them with a resource they might find useful. If it makes sense, invite them to meet for lunch or coffee soon.
Get involved in the organization. One of the best ways to not walk into a room full of strangers is to be part of the organization hosting the event. Become a member, attend regular meetings, or volunteer for a committee or the board. Working together on a common interest is a great way to get to know people more deeply.
Don’t over-commit. If you are an introvert, events and large groups of people will drain your energy. Pick and choose the best events to help you achieve your goals, and don’t feel like you have to attend everything all the time.
By applying these tips, I’m able to not only survive, but actually thrive and enjoy events. If you nodded along through this whole article, you’re probably an introvert. If you’re not sure, take this quick quiz: http://www.quietrev.com/the-introvert-test/