Keith Ferrazzi( author of Never Eat Alone a best-seller on networking for professional success) once said, “Networking isn’t smarmy”.
Instead, the term 'networking' is a buzzword for building sincere relationships based on mutual generosity. Good networks help you find jobs, recruit talent, and helps you attract potential clients and investors. However, for those of us on the quieter end of the scale, i.e. introverts, talking and reaching out to people can be... a bit of a trial.
The process of making small talk and breaking the ice to establish the roots of the network can feel insincere or manipulative. To add to that, introverts often tend avoid a lot of social interactions due to a fear of rejection. It is much easier to avoid it, and avoid the pain that come along with it. But in doing so, introverts also wind up indirectly undermining their careers, their projects, and themselves.
But don't despair- there's a way to get past your networking demons. Keep reading to see how you can make the best of each opportunity!
Tip #1: Be Prepared
Approach all networking opportunities with a game plan.
Before you dive into an event, whether it's a group event or dinner party, make sure you do your homework. Find out who will be attending, and think critically about your objectives for attending in the first place. What information do you want to walk away with and what do you want to convey to the people you meet?
As far as possible, try to avoid charging in without a plan, or "winging it" unless there is literally no other option available.
Tip #2: Time Your Entry
No, this is not an invitation to get a confetti cannon for a grand entrance.
Walking up to join a group which is already engaged in a lively discussion can be an unbelievably intimidating experience- especially if you're not the type who likes to put forth your own opinions. But this doesn't mean that you can't make your way in; you most certainly can! Just keep in mind that there is an art to doing so.
To start with, avoid pushing your way into the group and blurting out opinions- nothing kills the conversation flow faster than someone barging in. To add to that, pushing your way in obnoxiously is guaranteed to leave a bad first impression on those watching. The best way to ease your way into the conversation is to just smile and listen for a moment to get the gist of the conversation.
Still wondering how to break the ice? When there is a pause, or another suitable opportunity, ask a simple question on the topic of discussion. This achieves two things;
1. It helps build your credibility- by asking a question, you show that you have some knowledge on the topic in question (as you know what to ask) and that you're someone who takes the time to listen.
2. For someone shy, asking questions can be easier than launching into speech or stating an opinion- it invites others to speak with you, making it easier to connect.
Tip #3: Keep Business Cards Handy
Never leave your workplace without a few of your business cards handy.
Business cards are an effective way for you to leave your name behind so that people remember you-especially if you are introverted.
If networking gets overwhelming, don't squander any potential contacts you do have. Instead, offer them your business card and let them know it’s okay to reach out. They'll be more likely to mirror your response by offering their own card -and that way, you'll have made a solid, repeatable connection.
Tip #4: Listen More
Everyone loves to talk- especially about themselves. And while some folks may be quiet, that doesn't necessarily mean that they're listening- some of them could just be waiting for the chance to continue talking.
If you are on the shy side, listening is easier than talking. All you need to do is pay attention to the conversation and listen as sincerely as you can. So how does this help with networking?
By letting other people discuss their experiences and opinions with you – and listening with sincere interest – you will stick out as someone they had a great conversation with. And the best part? You won't have to say much at all!
Tip #5: Leverage On Human Curiosity
Worried about freezing up mid-conversation? Here's a way to avoid that- Think of a list of go-to questions that can get you through the first few minutes of meeting new faces.
There’s no one on earth who doesn’t enjoy talking about themselves. Ask them about themselves and what they work on, or what they like to do in their free time. Learning about what makes people tick is what we do in business after all- and this is a handy way to meet new people while discovering common interests!
Above all, don’t forget to just be yourself and enjoy the experience!