I have a confession, I am an introvert. Being an introvert doesn’t necessarily make someone shy, it refers to how one generates energy. An introvert gathers energy by being alone and has their energy drained by social and large settings. I call it being “on”, when I have to have on my best face, give talks and speeches, ensure conversation is flowing and create connections. Extroverts on the other hand, are the opposite, they gather energy when interacting with others and find alone-time to be draining. This state of being, can make introverts hesitant to network because you know you are going to have to gear up to foster energy and in the end, you will be depleted. Just the thought of networking can start the depletion of energy.
Strategy One: Focus on Smaller Events
I have found that I am able to help create my own ease of mind by being selective of which events I attend and what my goals are for the event. For me, the smaller the setting the more comfortable I am in the setting. There is an added and significant bonus at networking at smaller events because there is a greater opportunity for more in-depth conversations where you can build a relationship rather than just conduct small talk. If your goal of networking is to get enough people to know who you and your company are so that if they hear of something within their company you come top of mind, than focusing on building a connection is vital. Unless you are trying to hit some quota, a goal of the one who goes home with the most business cards wins, is not a valuable strategy. People need to know more than just your business card to be effective, your image needs to be invoked when a need is recognized. Smaller events foster not just building a high value network but also don’t seem as daunting.
Strategy Two: Set Small, Achievable Goals
My second key strategy is to establish a small, achievable and non-scary goal of meeting 2 new people per event. For me, meeting someone can look like being introduced to someone by someone else or gathering the courage to just walk up to someone and say “hi, my name is….”. It is helpful to have a clear thread on some current events, sports, news or otherwise so that you have a lead in for a conversation. After a few events, you will find you know one person at the event and they can introduce you to the one person they know and it gets easier. Networking was a learned skill for me, it was really hard at first but it got easier with time. I have now increased my goal to go beyond meeting 2 new individuals per event, to making a connection with at least one of them. I will continue to work my way through a stepped process. I have found as I get more comfortable at each stage, my energy levels are no longer as depleted as they were in the beginning. I now look forward to seeing my friends at these events.