6 Networking Tips for the Introvert in All of Us

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cat hidingHave 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.

Reward 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

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  • LegalTypist

    A great organization to learn how to be more comfortable speaking in public is Toastmasters (http://www.toastmasters.org). This not-for-profit organization was started in the early 1900’s and now boasts clubs all over the world.

    The Mission of each ToastMasters Club:

    … to provide a mutually supportive and positive learning environment in which every individual member has the opportunity to develop oral communication and leadership skills, which in turn foster self confidence and personal growth.

    You can practice in front of a mirror, and also join ToastMasters and practice in front of a live audience who wants nothing more but to help you refine and improve your spoken message.

  • mathieuf

    I also recommend ToastMasters. A great organization for practice speaking in front of groups, in a safe environment.

    Involvement in any not-for-profit organization is helpful. Try running a fund raising event for your favorite charity, or serving on the board. This gives you plenty of chances to come out of your shell and promote yourself and an organization you believe in. Try managing and motivating volunteers; that is a challenge!

  • J. Boncal

    I am an introvert but most people would not believe it. At meetings and networking events I’ve learned to become an extrovert. I am a member of Toastmasters and highly recommend it if you are shy and need practice speaking to people or in front of a group.

  • Kate

    I agree that Toastmasters is a great program to help introverts feel more confident. I found it very helpful. I have also found the book Networking Like a Pro full of great tips. The author Ivan Misner shows you how to use the 12 X 12 X 12 Rule to ease your way into a room or conversation.

  • Becky

    Dr. Ivan Misner has also come out with a great book titled, “Networking Like a Pro: Turning Contacts Into Connections,” that also offers a lot of great tips on better face-to-face networking. I have always dreaded meeting new people and having to strike up conversation… Dr. Misner’s book really helped me get more confidence in my networking skills.

  • www.4-sixty-n-beyond.com

    I am so happy to have run across a posting such as this one. I certainly fit the bill for being the introvert almost in all cases. I’d prefer not to speak at all if I didn’t have to. However, we all know that not many successful people fall into the realm of being introverts. Those who have been successful or that have paved the way, have no issues with being in the limelight. I’ve heard of Toastmasters and have placed it on my TODO list in 2010. I’ve heard nothing but good things about it and cant’ wait see if can break the “shy” spell that’s been cast upon me.

  • Notjustme

    Glad I found this site. Really interesting to see so many suggest Toastmasters.
    I have been a member for 2+yrs. It is definitely a friendly, positive environment in which to practice speaking…wether it be off the cuff as in Table Topics or presenting a speech in the building blocks of a successful speech. It also helps to have a VP Education who will not allow you to join and participate in nothing. You do not learn sitting on the sidelines all the time.