Do You Turn Into a Hot Mess Even Thinking About Networking? Here are five tips for dealing with this requisite chore, even if you're an introvert.
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At least once a month, someone tells me, "I wish I was more extroverted like you. I'm just too much of an introvert." These people see me speaking, conducting a workshop or training on live broadcasts, and they automatically assume that I must be an extrovert.
The truth is, I can speak in front of hundreds of people without breaking a sweat. I'll have ready bullet points to follow, a topic of discussion and an end goal. And since there's no dialogue or conversation, I'll even answer any questions presented. No problem. However, put me in a room with 10 people and ask me to network, and I will mentally fall apart.
The fact is, introverts do not like small talk. Such conversations feel like a waste of time and drain our energy. Therefore, trying to network feels forced and fake. We would rather be home, scrubbing down the bathroom tub in silence than figuring out what to say, how to respond and the best way to make our smiles seem genuine here among all these networking strangers.
However, the fact remains that networking is essential, no matter if you work for a corporation or own a small business, and it's essential even for introverts. Below are five quick tips for those of us who loathe networking.
1. What can you give?
Many times we walk into a networking event feeling fake because we are there out of a feeling of obligation that we must determine, "How can these people help me?" Any sense of service is missing, and that's not wise. Instead, we should shift our mindset from "What can I get?" to "What can I give?"
Play a game with yourself. In advance, decide that you are not leaving until you are able to help 10 people in some way. How can you do that? You might help someone by recommending a book or sharing the phone number of your favorite yoga teacher. Whatever you offer, forget about helping only with a business problem your listener may have. Instead, get creative, and help in any other way you can.
2. Give your full attention.
Some of the worst people at networking events are the ones who are distracted while you are trying to speak with them. If you are focused on giving, you'll find it easier to keep your attention on the person you are conversing with.
Not only will you be asking questions to try to uncover clues as to how you might assist these people, but you'll be listening to their answers for clues. This will keep you present and able to offer your undivided attention.
3. Commit to a long-term relationship.
Keep in mind that networking relationships take time. I have watched publishers have books literally shoved into their hands at networking events because some unknown author (the shover) is trying to seize an opportunity. Oftentimes, these tactics are employed by introverts trying to get their networking task done and cross it off their lists.
Instead of aggressively sharing your business, project or product with an influencer, however, try asking for his or her advice or opinion on a topic. You will make more progress by remembering that you are trying to build a long-term relationship than those exclaiming, "You must read my book!"
4. Do not make promises.
How often have you agreed to go to coffee with someone or promised to read a book and give feedback, only to regret that promise the minute you got home? It is so easy to agree to taking on extra tasks, assignments or appointments when you are at a networking event because you justify that your goal is to build a relationship with someone.
But, don't make those agreements. Instead, before heading to a networking event, tell yourself that you will not make any promises you cannot keep. A great way to handle this is to respond to a request with, "My schedule is really busy, but I am going to set up a reminder right now to look at my calendar and get back to you within the next few days." This will give you time to really think about whether or not you want to take on the requested task.
5. Give yourself time to recharge.
Extroverts become energized when they are around other people. Introverts lose energy being around others. So, if you're one of the latter group, try to leave some time at work, a meeting or a networking event to rejuvenate. Do this by taking just five minutes in your car, in the restroom or outside -- where you can take a short walk to remind yourself that maybe networking isn't so scary, after all.