When it comes to offline networking let’s just say, I always hope the food is good so I can stuff my face and avoid the awkward introductions, and silent judgments. I personally enjoy online networking more mainly because it’s an introverts paradise. Long before I intentionally networked online for business purposes, I made all kinds of connects with people around the world on the basis of specific interests (mainly comics, and anime) and in specific niche groups (Does Black Planet ring a bell?) just for fun. When and if I did connect with those people offline, I was less awkward (and relieved they were real and looked like their profile picture), and able to build genuine friendships that lasted through the years. I said all that to say, eventually, an especially for career advancement, business development, and heck, even marriage, you have to take your online world offline. After my most recent networking event which came in the form of an Equality Awards Fundraiser for a small New Jersey nonprofit that educates, develops, and encourages the leader in us all, I noticed a little pattern that seems to work for those of us who are slightly more reserved than our extroverted counterparts and broke them down into 3 easy to use networking tips.
Here are 3 Tips to Help you Network when you’re an Introvert
1. Find Comfort in a Wingman
Bring someone with you or find someone in the room who looks like they could use a pal, they’re often standing alone hoping their fellow introvert will come rescue them from the horrible flashbacks of being the new kid at school who squeamishly walked around hoping someone will let them sit at their lunch table. This person can be an empathetic extrovert or even another introvert; it doesn’t matter, as long as they allow you to feel safe because you know there is someone to return to when you have reached your limit of comfortable engagement in a networking environment. I.e. you have begun to wonder when you can leave so you can cuddle up with a good book and enjoy a quiet night alone or with a loved one.
2. Start Small
I know that before I leave I had better work up enough nerve to get a business card or two. I like to give out a business card or two while I’m at it. And quite frankly, I’d rather build a few genuine relationships then collect a whole bunch of contacts with people who more than likely will toss my card and think nothing of it. So, I look for other lone wolves and small groups of people engaged in a particular activity that invites an opening. For instance, I’ve made some truly lucky connections because I happened to arrive at the same time as someone else so we strike up small talk about parking or the weather and end up walking into a networking event together I then look for them again once inside because they are now a familiar face. Or, if someone is having a presentation, it’s easier to strike up a sidebar conversation with others who are interested in the same presentation after all you have somewhat of a similar interest being that you both wanted to see the same presentation. It also never fails to strike up a conversation with someone in line for the ladies room or food and cocktails.
3. Begin the Conversation Online
Earlier I gave a great example of what works extremely well for those us who prefer online conversations to in person. If you know ahead of time, who will be at the event start engaging with them online first, catch up on their blog post, see what they’re doing professionally on LinkedIn. They will likely be the first face you look for in a crowded space and if they won’t end up being your wingman, they may introduce you to a good friend who will be. Not to mention if they are are of an extrovert they will be willing to catch up with you and introduce you to their network of influence This method is one of my favorites and a proven method for generating “a chance” it is actually how I built most of my business alliances, original client base and landed employment opportunities.
When in doubt, do what introverts do best, listen, learn and then decide on a plan of action to carry out to reach your networking goals.
Would you like to add to this list?
I would love to hear from you! (No, seriously, I could use some pointers.)
Photo Credit: PhotoCo