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I created this complete Step by Step Guide to Networking for Introverts because networking is one of the most important aspects to entrepreneurship. As important as it is, it is hard to find practical tips that you can actually apply, especially for shy introverts.
Introverts can be good at network
Talking to people in person has proven to be a significantly better way to form meaningful and long lasting connections for me. I have mostly networked alone, as in I have attended events by myself. Even when I go with someone to an event, I will go off by myself. So don’t be put off by attending events alone. You will be surprised to see that many people actually do this. The more you do it, the better you will become and the more natural it will become. You need to get out of your head the idea that some people have it and some people don’t. It is a skill that anyone can practice and master. Repetition is the mother of all skill.
Having attended hundreds of events in different countries in the last 10 or so years, I have mastered the art of networking as in introvert and devised these easy to follow step by step guide to networking for introverts that worked for me and will work for you too.
Step 1: Business Cards are a must!
I cannot stress enough how important having business cards is when building your brand. It offers some professionality and officiality – all the fancy non-existent words. It is more personal. I have noticed at some events that people will whip out their phones and follow each other on their respective social media outlets. Business cards are more personal than an instagram follower. Often the social media names are not as close to the persons name and you will disappear in a sea of tiny digital faces. With a business card, people have your contact in physical form and you can’t beat that when networking.
Step 2: How to find a networking event
It may surprise you to find that there is a massive world beyond social media. Finding events to attend is actually very easy, depending on where you live of course. Most cities have something going on. Events don’t have to be exact to what you do. They just need to be of interest to you. The best place to search is good old Google. Just typing “free events ___” with your location then you will see lots of events. Then you just have to find which ones you find interesting. In general I don’t like to pay for events so I seek out free ones. They will often have free food and drinks too! Of course if you see a paid event you think is worth the money then that is up to you but I’ve always encouraged my clients to keep costs as low as possible by minimising unnecessary spending.
Meetup is also a great way to meet new people outside of your usual network of friends or colleagues. I’ve successfully used it in Australia, Portugal and the UK for a variety of interests. You can also find events near you on Facebook. It doesn’t have to be called a networking event for it to be a networking event. Any event where you can talk to other people is a networking opportunity.
Step 3: Prepare
Be prepared to talk about yourself and/or your project. What exactly do you want people to know about you and your project? Keep it minimal and succinct, no long life stories. It is generally a good idea to have an ‘elevator pitch’ ready so you can sound more natural when someone asks “what do you do”. I have certainly floundered on a few occasions when caught off-guard. If you don’t have one, a quick and easy blurb involves 3-ish sentences
Your elevator pitch
What your elevator pitch should include
- Your Background
- What you are currently doing or working on
- What opportunities you are interested in or looking for
Mine would be something along the lines of: “I have a strong background in entrepreneurship and branding. Currently I’m working on my website to provide resources to help others start businesses on a very low budget. I’m really interested in building an email list”. You would have to tweak it depending on who you are talking to. If you are networking with potential customers or audiences then you would be talking more about your unique value proposition and where you can be found online/offline. You can practice in the mirror. It might feel silly but you know what, no one’s watching so go ahead and do a “are you talkin to me?” impression from Taxidriver! Having fun with yourself is a great way to boost your confidence.
Step 4: What to wear for a networking event
Dress more for comfort than to impress. I obviously do not mean turning up in a fluffy hooded one-sie. Be presentable but there is no need to go out of your way to look a certain way. Authenticity is a timeless quality. Wear something that makes you feel confident and is easy for you to relax and be yourself in. People are more interested in your personality and how you come across than superficial
Step 5: Be punctual
I sometimes arrive a bit early before the hustle and bustle. It helps me connect with organisers in a less crowded environment and leaves a lasting impression. Back in the day I worked for an arts marketing company in Birmingham (UK) and part of my job was to organise events for creative businesses. A lot of work goes into preparing for and delivering an event so turning up on time is a respectful thing to do. Having said that, if you’re running late, don’t worry about it, just turn up with a beaming smile
Step 6: Smile!
Smiling is an effective way of connecting with people. When you meet someone’s eyes at the buffet table, be sure to smile and start a conversation. It can be about the food or the venue but make sure it is positive. In general it is good to have a more positive outlook. It makes you feel happier and people are drawn to it as it makes them feel more positive too.
Step 7: Be attentive
Be sure to listen carefully to the other person when you are talking to someone. It is especially important to sure to ask follow-up questions based on what they are saying. Often people are waiting to just talk about themselves and it can be refreshing to demonstrate an interest in the other person. This leaves a lasting impression as people appreciate good listeners.
If there is a talk/presentation, try summon the courage to ask a thoughtful question at the end. Or something that I like to do these days is to keep my question and find the presenter afterwards to ask them directly in a more casual setting. It’s a great way to start a conversation with a contact that might be intimidating to approach because of how established they are.
“Hi, I really enjoyed your talk, especially the section on [tailor it to the talk and be genuine]. I was a bit shy to ask at the end of your talk in front of so many people but I was wondering if you could spare a moment?” You can proceed to ask a well thought out question. Don’t just ask for the sake of it because it will be obvious. Only do this if you have a genuine and interesting question.
Step 8 Introducing yourself
Personally, I don’t like to lead with an intro when I first meet someone. It’s harder to remember a name when you haven’t talked to that person yet. I prefer ice breakers (about the food for instance) then talking about reasons for attendance then projects then intros will happen naturally. I let them ask for my name first, they always do. When you are exchanging names, it is very important to lock eyes. Often you will be shaking hands as well but the key is eye contact. It will make it easier to remember the name and face together. Once you know someone’s name, use it every now and then while talking to them and you will notice they really like that. Showing you remember someone’s name is quite a skill these days!
Step 9 How to give and collect business cards
Do not be shy about asking for a business card or handing yours over after you’ve talked to someone and exchanged names. If you’ve had a good talk and feel a connection then you can ask for contact details. If you don’t know when to bring them up then you can just wait till you are parting ways…
Step 10 How to move around the room
It is important to move around a bit. My tactics for moving on from someone that I no longer wish to talk to (it can get awkward) is to excuse myself to get more nibbles or drink or go to the bathroom. Be sure to say it was nice meeting them.
Step 11 How to pick who to talk to next
Holding a beverage of some kind helps while you are scanning the room. I always try find other single people first as they are much easier to approach. If there are seemingly no singles then you can look for the group that looks like they are enjoying themselves the most. They will be more friendly and welcoming to a lone stranger. You can then enter the group with a “sorry to rudely interrupt but I couldn’t help overhear you guys talking about [tailor to the situation], I just wanted to say [insert joke or witty remark]”. This is a skill that you will develop the more you put yourself out there. Sometimes you will bomb, sometimes people aren’t as welcoming but don’t let that dampen your ambition.
Step 12 Reflect and Document
It is good practice to document the event while it is still fresh in your head. You can use a free online journal that I use and very much recommend, journey.cloud, to keep tract of your progress.
Networking is a skill that needs to be practiced and refined. You need to be proactive about it making sure you are prepared to speak about yourself but also listen intently to others. Business cards seal the deal in making a lasting impression.