Let’s face it. We live in a noisy world that often rewards the loudest voices–whether or not they have something valuable to add to the conversation. (Witness Kim Kardashian and reality TV.)
“Networking” conjures images of hordes of hungry professionals roving with business cards in hand, scoping for what they can get…
Networking in a noisy world is intimidating for anyone, but to an introverted entrepreneur, who knows how important “getting out there” is to her business success, the barriers can seem insurmountable.
Am I an innie?
First off: definitions. The terms introverts and extroverts were introduced by Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung to describe how people interact with society.
Introversion isn’t the same as shyness, which is more about the fear of being seen and judged…
Introverts prefer small groups and one-on-one interactions. They feel depleted by a lot of social interaction, and are energized by periods alone.
Although you may tend toward one or the other, most people have some qualities of each.
So, dear introvert – dreading your next networking event?
Not to worry… You’re just a few steps away from rocking the networking world… On your own terms.
Show up as yourself
If you think being an introvert is a liability as an entrepreneur, think again.
Introvert champions Adam Grant and Susan Cain (author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking) show that you bring mad skills to the table. Introverted leaders are often better listeners, and more receptive to suggestions and ideas.
So go on with your bad self, and show up as you. Don’t try to be someone you’re not.
If the point of networking is connecting with your tribe, the more fully you show up as your authentic self, the better they’ll see and connect with you.
Focus on quality, not quantity.
When walking into a room of people, rather than surveying the room and getting intimidated by sheer numbers, breathe…
And focus on connecting with one person, one conversation, and one relationship at a time.
Scan for a friendly face. Often you’ll see someone else doing the same. Make eye contact, beeline over, and get the conversation started…
Now you’re leveraging one of your strengths: one-to-one interactions.
Shift your goals around the number of connections you intend to make.
Walking out with a stack of business cards is not the end-all, be-all goal – especially if you get home, sift through the pile, and can’t even remember who half the people are.
It’s not about how many people you talk to. It’s about having that one, two or more authentic connections that potentially expands your tribe.
Focus on smaller groups, or subsets of a larger group of which you’re part, like a chamber of commerce.
Turn on your curiosity.
Curiosity is a powerful antidote to fear.
So when confronted by questions like, “How many of these people can I talk to? How will I do this?”… Switch gears.
Start your question with “I wonder… ?”
“I wonder who I’ll meet.”
Make it into a game with this sole intention: a focus on one sincere, easy, authentic connection.
After that’s made… Wonder, “Who next?”
Show up to give, not get.
Here’s the “secret” to powerful networking:
People who go into it hoping to “get” something typically walk away empty-handed.
Really successful networkers come from a spirit of service.
So when it’s time to start chatting, shift the focus from yourself: What brought you here today? Tell me about yourself (or your business)…
And ask this galvanizing question: How can I help?
Take on a specific role.
Assume a role within the event, whether it’s as greeter, or official name-tag-hander-outer or whatever.
Ask the host if there’s something you can do to help. If you’re a member of the organization running the shindig, is there a role within it that you can take on?
Offer a talk on your expertise. Not only will you be at home in your topic, you’ll reach many – and skip the sweaty-palmed small talk.
And I know from personal experience that many an introvert is an outstanding performer. So, go, introverted speaker, go!
Heck, host the event yourself! Taking on a leadership role, is empowering.
Refill, and give yourself a break.
Make sure your energy reserves are replenished prior to arrival. You too need proper rest, care and feeding!
Treat yourself to an extra dollop of self-care by spending some alone time with your book of the moment… Quiet time with a cup of tea… Yoga class or spontaneous dance break. Whatever it takes to get your fuel gauge to “Full.”
During the event, you don’t have to be “on” all the time. Give yourself permission to take time out, whether it’s a few moments to do nothing but enjoy your coffee and observe your surroundings, or excuse yourself to the ladies’ room for a few minutes alone.
So – which of these Jedi mind tricks could you use at your next networking event? Tell me about it in the comments below!