Fellow introverts, I feel for you.
So much doled out advice on networking consists of ‘be bold’, ‘just do it’ and other back-slapping muscle-flexing bravado that it’s just tempting to give the whole thing a miss.
And I’ve been there. I’ve had the less than ideal scenarios. I’ve been the awkward wallflower, I’ve overcompensated for social anxiety by over-doing it at the drinks’ table, I’ve walked around from cluster to cluster – attempting an entry then bee-lining it for the ladies where at least I can look at my phone in peace. Vini vidi vino!
As well as being an introvert and socially-anxious, I’m also terrible at recognising faces – I’m not sure I’d go as far as diagnosing myself with prosopagnosia, but it takes me several meaningful meetings with an individual to be able to pick them out in the crowd.
Sounds like I should steer clear of any networking events, right?
And yet, I’ve also had the opposite experiences, evenings where I have felt in control of myself and the environment, where I’ve met wonderful new people, events where my presence has led to business transactions going forward, and so forth.
Those are the events where, instead of seeing what makes me me, as a weakness, I decided to concentrate on my strengths. Sounds obvious, and yet it is not.
So here is my advice:
1. Networking =/= canapés
First things first, while networking might conjure visions of business casual people standing around negotiating a plate of vol-au-vent in one hand and a glass of Pinot Grigio in the other – it doesn’t have to be.
There are so many ways to network without needing to leave the house:
- When you get involved in a LinkedIn or Facebook group specific to your area of expertise, and comment and share on those – you are networking.
- When you email someone to tell them you appreciated the article they wrote about xyz – you are networking.
- When you join in a Twitter chat relevant to your industry, and add your thoughts, retweet other people and so forth – you are networking.
- When you take an Instagram picture of a book by your business hero and tag them in it – you are networking.
- When you start a podcast or YouTube channel and invite guests – you are networking
- When you ask to interview someone for your blog – you are networking.
And so on, and so forth.There are so many ways to network without needing to leave the house. Click To Tweet
If social media is your strength, as it is for me, then use it to your benefit rather than seeing it as an impediment. Join in on existing conversations, promote the people you admire, share what you know from an editable environment.
The flipside of this, is that if you’ve been using social media quite casually – now is the time to inspect your activity a little closer. Are your profiles consistent with what you want to be known for? Is it easy for visitors to find out what you do and how to contact you?
This brings me on to the second point:
2. Create your own space
One daunting thing about networking is having to be the one to do the approaching. Creating a situation where others approach you helps to break the ice and relax you into an event. How on earth do you do that if you are not a famous hotshot?
The best option is to be in control of the event in some form:
- organize it yourself. This also gives you a great opportunity to create an introvert-friendly environment.
- give yourself purpose – whether official or self-given. Read here how Aaron Orendorff took over an event without being a speaker, through a careful strategy that was almost entirely online but led to real-life opportunities at the event and beyond. Having a clear target and planning towards achieving it can help remove some of the fear factor.
- Be a speaker. If, like me, networking brings you out in a cold sweat but talking to thousands does not, then being a speaker is great! Provided your talk isn’t a complete snooze, you should find yourself talking with all sorts of people after your talk (the adrenaline helps for sure).
Beyond in-person events, the best way to stand out is to create your own digital niche and involve people with it. What that niche will be depends on what your strengths and interests are (and you will have both). Think beyond your business interests to your personal ones – your prospects are humans too after all – is there a way you can combine them to create something thought-provoking and fun?The best way to stand out is to create your own #digital niche and involve people with it Click To Tweet
How about (for example)
- A LARP (live action role play) re-enactment of recent M&A transactions? Adds fun and silliness to a subject that can be a bit dry
- ChickBizLit – a YouTube channel reviewing business books alongside ‘chick-lit’ releases and drawing comparisons between the two. Happens to be a Googlewhack too!
- The Conference Inspector – you attend as many conferences as possible and review them on your blog in the style of a detective story
Please credit me if you move forward with any of these 😉
What are your top tips for networking when an introvert? Let me know in the comments! And do share to a friend who might need it…
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