A common misconception about introverts is that they are all shy or quiet. In actuality, an introvert is simply someone who might find social engagements draining or tiring. This doesn’t mean introverts never want to socialize, just that they have a limited amount of energy to spend networking before they need a break to recharge.
So, if you are an introvert and are looking for advice on making connections and building professional relationships, read on for seven tips on networking for introverts.
1. Find the right events
Do you feel exhausted just thinking about large conferences or rooms packed with people? That’s okay! These types of events might not be for you. Luckily, there are so many events out there that cater to different interests and provide different formats. There’s truly something for everyone.
Instead of going to an event for the sake of networking, think about topics that interest you and do a little research to find events that align with those interests.
Picking an event with a speaker, presentation, or workshop that interests you will not only be more enjoyable to attend, but it will allow you to meet people who share those same interests. These connections are more likely to be valuable to you, and shared interests are also a natural conversation starter!
Try searching Google, Eventbrite, Meetup, or CIC’s events calendar. Many meetups are recurring, which is helpful in developing relationships with the same group of people over time.
Another tip is to check the event agenda. Many conferences offer a variety of sessions. While a networking session in a large event hall might not be for you, fireside chats are often more advantageous to introverts as they typically have smaller audiences.
2. Try virtual events
Virtual events allow us to attend an event without the travel time and to enjoy programming from other cities that we couldn’t normally experience.
There are certain benefits to the virtual networking experience, too, that can be particularly helpful for some introverts. Online events can reduce the anxiety caused by walking into a crowded room. Plus, they can offer smaller, more structured opportunities to connect.
With virtual events, you can network from the comfort of your own home. Check the agenda and look for events that offer virtual breakout rooms for networking. These breakout rooms tend to be small and automatically introduce you to other people without having to pluck up the courage to walk up to a stranger. Many virtual events also have a chat feature, which is another great way to connect with other attendees.
3. Schedule time to recharge
One of the hardest parts of networking is showing up to the event. It can be easy to push an event off after a long day of meetings or if you’ve attended a social event the night before.
Beyond adding the event itself to your calendar, it may help to carve out time on your calendar to recharge before and after the event. By planning around your energy needs, you’re more likely to follow through on attending and have a positive experience, without it coming at the expense of other obligations or opportunities.
4. Play to your strengths
Many introverts feel that networking events aren’t designed with them in mind. However, introverts can be great networkers, especially when playing to their strengths. Introverts may not be the loudest people in the room, but they often make the best listeners.
Listening is a powerful relationship building tool that often comes naturally to introverts. Active listening shows that you’re interested in what the other person has to say and helps build deeper connections. You can also keep the conversation going by asking thoughtful questions about what the other person is saying — something many introverts are naturals at!
5. Less is more
This may sound cliche, but it’s important to be yourself. At the heart of it, networking is about building professional relationships that may eventually lead to a new opportunity or business partnership. However, sometimes networking just leads to an interesting conversation.
Focusing on the number of business cards you hand out or trying to speak to as many people in the room as possible will likely exhaust an introvert and can lead to feeling like the event was a waste of time. Instead, make it a goal to talk to two to three people. Although you’ll be talking to less people, you’ll likely have more meaningful conversations.
6. Be present
You’ve carved out time to attend this event and built in time to honor how you recharge. Now, it’s time to be present at the event! One of the best ways you can do this is by putting your phone away. Seems like simple advice, but one many people don’t follow. It’s natural for people to pull out their phones in social situations where they might not know anyone or feel uncomfortable. Having your phone out might make you feel safe by giving you something to do, but it’s unlikely that anyone will try and engage you in conversation if you look absorbed in your device.
If having something to do helps you feel more comfortable at an event, try grabbing a drink or snack. You’ll have something to do yet remain open for conversation at the same time.
7. Follow up with your new contacts
Remember those two or three people you chatted with and exercised your active listening skills? The information you learned about those people will help you craft thoughtful follow-up emails with those you’d like to keep in touch with. Networking doesn’t have to be about asking people for things. It can simply be about building a professional network and developing meaningful connections.
Not ready to ask your new contact for coffee? Start small! Connecting on LinkedIn is a great way to build connections online. LinkedIn allows people to keep in touch, share articles, or send invitations to future events.