I’ve a confession to make, I’m an introvert. a major one.
I’m usually exhausted after a function, inspired, full of opportunities, happy at the connections made, but worn out by the interaction with others.
But if I hadn’t tuned up, none of the opportunities and information picked up at the event would have come my way.
So, how does an introvert cope with a room full of strangers and networking in general?
Networking isn’t what you think it is.
The most common perception of networking is of turning up to a venue, putting on a name tag, and handing out business cards to complete strangers whilst sipping on wine of a dubious ancestry.
Many people who network do so unwillingly – it being part of their job description and they feel the pressure of collecting business cards and getting the word out about their organisation to as many people as possible. This pressure and stress can make it even harder for good contacts to be made and to communicate effectively.
But is doesn’t have to be that way. By changing the way we see networking we can approach the process with confidence. In fact, many of us network very well all the time without realising it.
We’re all great Networkers!
Every time we recommend a good place for coffee, or recommend a plumber, or someone to wash the dog is a form of networking.
We share information, ask advice, make time for each other, send interesting articles via email or clips from YouTube to stay in touch with friends and colleagues.
All this activity and maintains your relationship, keeps you in synch and a great way to keep the momentum up. The process should be the same for your professional relationships.
The sharing of information, the giving of favours and making time for others is the essence of great networking.
Give, Give, Give, Give, Get
In my workshops, I stress that networking is a way of seeing the world full of opportunity. It may sound paradoxical in the commercial world, but the more you give out the more you get in return, eventually. All things being equal, people want to do business with people they like and they trust.
To earn that relationship takes time, personal attention and cultivation- just like any good relationship. So the more you help your professional colleagues out, the more positive they see you, the more relevant you become and your professional profile rises above your peers and competitors.
But more importantly, over time those professional relationships you’ve cultivated will in turn recommend you to others (the best form of marketing there is) and when the time is right you’ll get the work , the lead, the information you were seeking.
So stay focused on the main game- the quality and depth of your relationships and not the number of business cards in your collection.
Posture and Attitude
When you’re meeting people its worth remembering a few things:
- They can’t hear the dialogue in your head saying ‘get me out of here, I’ve nothing interesting to say’
- People generally assume the best of someone and will accept you at face value as you present yourself
- You’re representing your organisation or company, that gives you a role to play, just like an actor
- They’ve chosen to be there too in order to meet other people, so its quite ok to talk to complete strangers
- You’re not going to get a sale/lead most likely right there and then, so just be yourself and let the conversation flow.
Finally, introverts have a lot going in inside their head… best to get it out and onto your computer or into a colleagues head. After the event, debrief yourself and make the information useful for the future:
- Who did you meet?
- What’s memorable about them? (hobbies, family etc)
- Worth following up? (book the when and how)
- What are the next steps to move things forward.
So, remember, we’re all in the same boat, you’re most likely much better at networking than you give yourself credit for, and by having a role and a system behind you, you’ll sail through the events like a pro.
About the Author
Phillip Jones has made a career of not really having one. At least, not in a straight line. Now the Director of Marketing, Fundraising and Communications for St Vincent de Paul for Canberra/Goulburn, he’s previously been a freelance consultant, socia...