It’s time to challenge the stereotype that networking is an extrovert’s game
Networking and knowing people is an important part of a successful life. And it can be the worst nightmare for introverts.
But the good thing is: you can change that mindset, and you can have a great time at networking events. I know I do even though it’s out of my comfort zone and awkward sometimes.
I’ll admit, the fear of social events haunted me as an introvert,
but ignoring networking possibilities and work events is a mistake you will regret later because being successful depends on how big your network is.
I got my part-time job during my studies through a connection I met in my student organization.
Your connections know what you are doing, and will write you if they need someone from your field.
Before we start with the tips I want to give you to make the best out of a networking event, we have to start smaller.
“Introverts dislike small talk, but we are fluent in the language of ideas and dreams”
— Michaela Chung
Step 1: Sign Up For an Event
Stepping out of your comfort zone can feel overwhelming. So we start with a small step: signing up for an event.
You don’t have to go there if you don’t feel ready yet.
You are telling your mind: oh so she is a person who signs up for networking events.
You are getting accustomed to going there at some point.
Step 2: Participate in the Event
The next small step after signing up is to actually go there.
You don’t have to talk to anyone.
Just be there and get used to such events.
Listen to the talks, enjoy the program, and then just leave.
You will understand the structure of the event: talks, breaks, and food.
You are letting your brain know that you are a person who goes to such events and that you can take steps out of your comfort zone.
You can repeat those first steps as often as you need to.
Big networking events with talks and a program are a good way to get used to them by blending in with the big crowd. No one will notice that you are not talking to anyone.
You can also ask a friend to join if you feel uncomfortable going alone.
It took a lot of effort for me to go to an event alone. But my ambitious self wanted to go so badly that it didn’t matter if someone wanted to join or not.
If you are ready now, I will share some tips with you to get the best out of every networking event as an introvert:
Talk With Smaller Groups or Individuals
I don’t feel comfortable talking with more than 5 people in a group.
So I will start talking with individuals or smaller groups of people.
What worked for me until now is that I start conversations at lunch breaks with individuals who are also alone.
They are usually open for conversations, and if it doesn’t work or feel right you can always just leave after lunch.
Dress Up Confident and Comfortable
From the first steps you took, you already know the dress code.
Don’t try to be someone else: you will feel uncomfortable.
Instead, dress up to help you feel confident and comfortable. The people you talk with are feeling your positive or negative energy.
I wouldn’t feel comfortable in a short dress or high heels. I would be nervous and thinking about my clothes and if they look okay.
Instead, I put on my favorite blazer and shoes, and I can concentrate on the person I talk with.
There is this saying: “Clothes make the (wo)man” and this is not just about your appearance but also about how you feel.
Have A Goal
To make the best out of the event I recommend setting yourself a goal you can achieve.
You decide how far you want to go out of your comfort zone and how much time you want to spend.
Just like you took the first steps, and didn’t do more you can also set boundaries.
You don’t have to talk to everyone. You don’t have to be THE networking machine of the day.
Set yourself a goal that you think is manageable, and then increase it with every event you go to.
It also doesn’t have to be a quantitative goal “I talk with 10 people today”. No, it can also be “I find a person I totally connect with and have a great conversation with them, exchanging contacts…”
Prepare Talking Points and Questions
Not like obvious cards with topics. Just in general in your mind.
This is what helps me the most because I’m bad at spontaneously thinking of some topic to talk about. And I love preparing.
I’m not gonna write cards with topics on something like you see in the movies.
I’m researching the topics of the speakers and the event, and I will prepare questions and answers.
It’s a great way to start a conversation, and at some point, it usually flows without needing prepared questions.
The start is usually the hardest part, and if you find a connecting point it’s really easy to stay in the conversation.
You cannot control the whole conversation.
If the conversation doesn’t go well, that’s okay; it happens to me too.
You don’t have to see them again, they probably already forgot you after leaving the event.
If it’s still not comfortable enough for you to speak to someone, ask a friend to join you. With 2 people it’s easier to keep a conversation going.
At my first female empowerment networking event I was not in the mood to talk with many people. I talked with one person during lunch break and that was enough for me.
The conversation was a motivation for me to go to the next one to speak to more people.
I love talking to people about their stories and experiences. Every person is extraordinary. And that’s the positive attitude to keep in mind.
You don’t network to get as many followers as possible for your LinkedIn. No, you network to listen to new stories and new perspectives, to go out of your comfort zone, and to find new connections for possible future friendships or business partners.
I believe in you!
Take it step by step and you can do it!
“Introverts are word economists in a society suffering from verbal diarrhea”
— Michaela Chung
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