Question: What is one tip you would offer an introvert who wants to network more at events, but genuinely struggles?
Remember That Everyone There Wants to Meet You
"The beauty of networking events is that everyone is there to meet new people, and that includes you. Unlike at a bar or a party, there is no need to feel insecure or self-conscious because simply by being there, attendees are letting you know that they are interested in meeting new people. Let that be a helpful reminder for you as you make eye contact with someone and introduce yourself."
Ask A Lot of Questions
"Most people like to talk about themselves, so make that easy for others. When you enter a conversation, just look for a question you can ask in the first minute. Introverts put a lot of pressure on themselves to talk, but as natural listeners, we can give others exactly what they want -- an engaged audience."
Wear Your Icebreaker
"If you struggle with making the opening line or introduction to an intimidating business person, wear your icebreaker. Add a colorful watch or accessory, an unconventional blazer -- something, anything that gets people talking. The goal is to have people approach you, and once you joke around about the "kooky watch" you're wearing, you can transition seamlessly into business."
Give Cut-Off Times
"When you go to an event, give yourself an out. Set a specific time during the event that you can leave. If the event goes for three hours, tell yourself that after one hour you can leave, but during that hour you are the most extroverted person in the room. You only have to do this for 60 minutes, so go do it!"
"Figure out what you want to talk about ahead of time and prepare as much as you can. Choose three topics you feel very comfortable discussing and use them as ice breakers."
Take Breaks and Listen
"Introverts recharge when they're alone. If there are no breaks built into the event you're attending, make some. Taking a small break to recharge -- stepping outside, taking a walk around the hotel, or finding someplace you can be alone for five to 10 minutes -- will give you fresh energy when you go back. Listening to others is also a great trick -- less draining for you, and it flatters the other person."
Find a Networking Wingperson
"For any networking event, it can be helpful to have a networking “wingperson.” Together, you can naturally draw others into your conversation. This is particularly true if your networking wingperson is knowledgeable about an industry you are unfamiliar with. If nothing else, the event will provide you with an opportunity to get to know your networking wingperson better."
"Introverts can use their abilities to deeply listen and evaluate business opportunities. From there, they can come back with more intelligent answers. Also, listening shows they care about the people speaking, which makes them a more powerful leader."
Understand Your Specific Purpose for Attending the Event
"Before going to an event, make sure you truly understand your specific purpose for attending. This can be supporting a colleague, meeting a business contact for the first time, watching a specific keynote or panelist, networking with friends and co-workers, or a combination of those things. I find that when I understand WHY I am at the event, I feel much more comfortable."
Look for Speaking Opportunities
"As an introvert myself, I look for opportunities to speak at events. First, it forces me to push myself into a position that I’m not totally comfortable with, which helps me develop. It also helps open the door for others to engage with me after we’ve shared an experience together."
Stick Your Hand Out and Introduce Yourself to Someone
"You don’t need to worry about what you should say next or perfecting your elevator pitch. Allow conversation to happen organically. Ask others about themselves and what they do, or ask questions that are fun to answer."
Do Some Networking Even Before the Event
"The best thing to do is create a plan before the event of some people to talk to. Find out who is going to be there and try to connect with some through email or social media. Find the people with common interests or who you have mutual connections with. You will feel much more comfortable striking up a conversation in person if you've done some connecting ahead of time."
Practice Introductions Outside Your Industry
"Practice introducing yourself at non-business events or events outside of your industry. You want to remove the pressure of feeling like you have to be 'on.' Once you get more comfortable in these settings, then you can go to industry events and places where your ideal prospects gather. You'll be much better prepared to make those business growth connections."