Have you ever wished you could just skip that conference or networking event, stay home, and have some time to yourself to think? If so, you might be an introvert – someone who enjoys being alone, thinks a lot and tends to feel drained being around people all the time.
I consider myself an introvert most of the time, but I have a splash of extrovert in me, too. Actually, I think all of us have a mix of both personalities, although we probably tend to be one more than the other. This is why dealing with the common networking challenges that an introvert experiences is something all of us may deal with from time to time. These introversion-networking challenges include:
- Being nervous about introducing yourself to people you don’t know
- Struggling to maintain small talk
- Having a hard time talking about yourself and what you do
- Worrying about looking out of place
- Feeling uncomfortable and self-conscious
Any of these challenges can quickly sour your perspective on networking and can make you hesitant to jump in and try face-to-face networking again in the future. So whether you’re a full-time introvert, or if you just experience the occasional episode of shyness, here are some ways to boost your confidence level and make your networking experiences less painful and more productive.
Ease Into It
All networking activities don’t have to be huge multi-day conferences with thousands of people. You may be more comfortable with a smaller group or shorter event. Start small, and be picky about the types of events you will participate in. It also helps to stick with events that focus on topics you truly have an interest in; having excitement about the opportunity will make many of the challenges easier to overcome.
Do Your Research
Before going to a networking event, take some time to research the type of people who will attend. Who are some of the people you can expect to meet? What are your common interests? Taking time to learn more about the event and the people who will be there can increase your anticipation and reduce your anxiety.
Practice in the Mirror
You prepared your elevator speech and you have a mental list of topics you can use for conversation, so now it’s time to practice what you will say. While you don’t want to reach the point where your conversations are overly planned and robotic, giving yourself a chance to run through some practice conversations can boost your comfort level.
Focus on Listening
Introverts tend to be good listeners, so use that to your advantage. Take some of the pressure off yourself by listening, then using the things other people are saying as conversation material. It can be easier for an introvert to put the focus on the person they’re speaking with, and this also makes the other person feel valued and listened to – vital for successful networking.
Think About the End
If you hit rough moments during the event, remind yourself that it won’t last forever. If it helps you, keep a mental countdown to push yourself to the finish line and make each moment more endurable. And don’t forget that you don’t have to be engaged in non-stop conversation; it’s okay to take a break and have a few minutes to yourself.
Plan a special reward for yourself for after the event to celebrate your success. Then take time to decompress and recognize that you pushed yourself out of your comfort zone, which is never easy to do. By reflecting on what you learned and all of the ways you benefited from participating, you will make it easier to put yourself out there at the next opportunity.
Are you an introvert? What are some of the challenges you face when networking? How do you overcome them?
Image credit: xymonau