Did you know that between one-third to half of all people are introverts? This is quite ironic because, if like me, you are more introverted, it can often feel like you are the only person in the room that is shy or terrified of starting that first conversation. When it comes to networking, there is actually a whole lot more people than you think who feel exactly the same way that you do. Here are my best tips on networking for introverts.
Being an ‘introvert’ isn’t a bad thing
After spending many years meeting and connecting with people (and going on to write a best-selling book – The Financial Times guide to business networking), I have found that being an introvert has its strengths. While we may not shine in over-crowded social situations and while we may find it difficult to engage in small talk and establish rapport with new people, this isn’t a bad thing. It just makes networking more difficult. Society is constantly pushing this ‘extrovert personality’ as being the ideal that should be aspired to, but if that’s just not you, it’s a bad way to think. By all means, muster up the extrovert confidence to ace a presentation or for a one-to-one meeting with a potential client, but don’t believe that you have to be more extroverted to be successful at networking, that’s just not true. Introverts are reflective people, we excel in intimate settings, and building close relationships actually comes easily to us when we’re not thinking too much about it. Combine this with the great quality of work that we provide and these relationships are often long-lasting and of high value.
12 tips on networking for introverts
Once you change your mindset, that you can be successful with your networking efforts even though you are more introverted, you can then use these tips to banish the nerves and navigate social events effortlessly.
- Prepare, prepare, prepare – write down questions that you want to ask new people and also questions that they may ask you. Not only can preparation help make you less anxious, but it can help you make sure that you say everything that you want to too.
- Tell yourself the right things – mindset is a powerful tool so keep telling yourself that you are excited about networking and that you can’t wait to meet new people. Studies have shown that positive thinking significantly affects our performance and how people perceive us.
- Bring a colleague/friend or find a conference buddy – something this simple can make you feel less nervous and give you the confidence to start conversations by introducing each other.
- Smile – being nervous can sometimes come across as hostile, so try to relax and smile at people. You’ll soon see the difference when people come up to talk to you without you doing anything else.(Learn how to win clients without networking!)
- Be yourself – if being loud and telling jokes isn’t your personality, then don’t beat yourself up about it or try to act that way, it will only hold you back. Recognise your strengths and use them to your advantage.(Are you a networking hunter or a farmer?)
- Redefine your approach – talking about your strengths, if you prefer intimate settings, strike up a conversation with someone at lunch. The distraction will make you feel less pressured and you can use this opportunity to shine. If you say to someone ‘I heard you talking about the current challenge you are facing in the group earlier and I think I can help…’ not only will you stand out but you will be memorable too for your listening skills and for providing them with immediate value.(Is your networking working for you?)
- Focus on the other person – if you’re worrying about what the other person is thinking or what you need to say next, you are not going to have a valuable conversation with them. Shift your focus to them, practice your listening skills and ask questions; you won’t be nervous if you’re not focused on yourself!
- Be THAT person for someone else – there will be many introverts at networking events, so why not muster the confidence to approach someone else who is alone or looks nervous? Be the person for them that you wish would start a conversation with you.
- Take advantage of the ‘winner effect’ – do you know that feeling that you get when you achieve something? It’s not just satisfaction but a boost of testosterone which increases your confidence. Start off with a few one-on-one conversations to get a few wins under your belt first and you’ll be exuding much more confidence by the time you approach a large social group.
- Challenge yourself and set goals – stepping out of your comfort zone is difficult, so take baby steps. Maybe you want to talk to 4 new people at this event or maybe you want to practice talking about your business for a bigger event next week? Whatever you want to achieve, challenge yourself and keep your goal front of mind.
- Choose the right events for you – understand when you’re at your best and choose the right events for you. Not a morning person? Don’t opt for networking brunches. Do you struggle in large groups? Suggest coffee meetups or other one-on-ones where possible.
- Don’t forget old or existing contacts – the best referrals often come from people who know you so check in with your old contacts and ask your current clients if they know of anyone else who needs your product or service.
Networking for introverts doesn’t have to be scary
Networking is an essential part of winning business as an accountant, consultant or lawyer in practice, but with many introverts, just the thought of it can bring great distress. Hopefully, with these tips, networking won’t be such a cause of anxiety any more. Just remember to recognise your strengths, choose the events and situations where you can shine, and always be yourself rather than trying (and failing) to be someone else.