In the past, introverts were thought best relegated to stuffy cubicles, factory production lines, and isolated underground laboratories. Thankfully, the stigma surrounding the introverts of the world and their inability to be ineffective entrepreneurs has mostly vanished as the world has moved into the digital era.
Nowadays, introverts from all walks of life are dominating in every industry, becoming millionaires and billionaires at a rate never before realized by entrepreneurs of the past. They’re creating software, they’re interrupting and revitalizing markets.
One of the biggest weapons an introverted entrepreneur can have in their networking tool chest is the ability to realize their strengths and weaknesses, and not be afraid to step outside their comfort zone at crucial networking events where their future may well be on the line.
In other words, self awareness.
So, analyzing your own S-W-O-T, you got to come up with a plan. You need to have good answers to this question: “What can I do to make my networking effort worthwhile – not only for me, but also for those that I networked with?”
To inspire you in looking for the answers, here are 5 great tips for making your next networking event more fruitful:
1. Set realistic goals from the outset
While it’s never too late to change, there are some things that become universal truths during a life lived as an introvert. You just might not be the type of person who can handle talking to 20 different (and new) people over the course of a 2-hour event. Nor will someone who doesn’t like being the center of attention suddenly become the type of person who jumps up on a table in the center of the room and starts to play the crowd – at least not without a few drinks to loosen them up first!
Whatever your limitations, know and accept them from the outset. Remember that you are who you are. Embrace what you can and cannot do equally, to lessen the pressure going into networking events. One quality conversation is better than several meaningless ones. Keep your end goals realistic and turn up your passion for your products and the industry you serve leading into networking events.
2. Set time limits for specific events
Just as they must know their limits, introverts also must realize that there’s a good chance they’ll feel uncomfortable at certain, if not all networking events they go to. One of the easiest ways to reassure oneself about their ability to manage an uncomfortable situation is to set a concrete time limit for how long you’ll have to endure said event.
These limits aren’t written in stone, unless you decide they are. As we settle in with a crowd, comfort levels go up. We meet people who make us feel comfortable, even entertained, and next thing you know the 30 minutes you originally planned to stay stretches to 2 hours and you’re sad to leave in the end.
3. Ask for introductions whenever possible
While it’s not true for all introverts, many suffer from a certain unmistakable social awkwardness that always seems to shine through at just the wrong time. This can spell disaster at an important networking event where a key partnership or chance to meet a big client is on the line. For this reason, it’s always recommended seeking out people you know, who know people you want to know – then ask them for an introduction.
If it isn’t possible, cozy up to the host(s) of the event. Introduce yourself and ask them to show you around a bit. Even the majority of extroverts out there are best advised to seek out introductions rather than walking up to people they don’t know and hoping their personality alone will make them shine.
4. Don’t try to change who you are
Changes, as mentioned, can always be made in one’s life. However, critical networking events aren’t the place to try to do a complete 180-degree shift! Be who you are, especially when it comes to listening and your willingness to show empathy.
There’s nothing wrong with making more of an effort than you normally would, but don’t make it so exaggerated that you end up standing out as someone who’s a phony. The simple fact is that, aside from not being the life of the party wherever you find yourself, introverts have a lot to offer in a networking environment, and tools such as being an empathetic listener and great at asking quality questions are actually the entrepreneur’s greatest assets.
5. Temper asking great questions with tidbits about yourself
This can be tough for introverts to pull off, but practice makes perfect and this is one thing you can change about yourself that will definitely lead to establishing better relationships with people. Introverts around the world are known for their ability to keep chatty types talking non stop. They have that innate ability to listen effectively, and usually develop an almost intuitive ability to pull questions out of even the dullest of details.
However, to most extroverts and even many introverts, this practice can make the people you meet feel like they’re being questioned by the police. To avoid making this mistake, get in the habit of offering your own thoughts on various subject matter. Share personal stories. Share your fears about the industry or upcoming changes you see coming.
Even a few meaningful words here and there can go a long way toward making the other party feel they’re sharing a rapport with you.
I’m not going to make myself sound like a fool and tell you there’s no need to get nervous when it comes time to prepare for and attend your next big networking engagement. The truth is, all people, from all walks of life still get antsy when put in a room full of strangers.
This is human nature…
The big key to all effective networking is being realistic in your expectations, giving yourself the option to make an early exit if needed, not being afraid to ask for proper introductions, embracing who you are (and who you aren’t) and making sure that the conversations you have are in fact a two-way affair with information shared from both sides.