Not all successful people are extroverts. On the contrary, the most successful people learn to play their strong hand. For those of you who are introverted, preferring a more quiet existence, here are a few tips to help you network in ways that are comfortable for you. Remember, there is more than one way to . . . well, do just about anything.
The word “network” generally makes most introverts I know break out into a cold sweat, and they try to disappear into their desks, hoping not to be noticed. And their fears are quite real. After all, most networking events seem to be dominated by people who have “never met a stranger” and can find something to talk about with just about everyone. Being interesting and entertaining to a roomful of people is a tall order for an introvert.
Being noticed is certainly one part of a networking event, but you don’t have to be the one everyone’s looking at and listening to. Rather than competing against the natural-born extroverts, play to your strengths.
Introverts are by nature very observant. Rather than flitting from person to person, having dozens of superficial conversations, identify the one person you feel you most need to meet. Save all your energy for that one encounter. Be prepared with any questions you may have, or information that you wish to share with that one person. That is considered a positive networking experience.
Introverts are naturally good listeners. When you can give someone your undivided attention and manage to make one or two remarks to demonstrate your understanding of the lecture, I mean, conversation, you will have made a friend for life. Because most people are talking at a networking event, finding someone willing to listen is a huge bonus.
Prepare for the event by having some questions ready, preferably open-ended questions. That way after you ask a question, you can sit back and let the other person talk and expound on their subject. A few well considered questions will keep you busy for as long as you intend to be at the event.
Set a limit to how long you will be at the event. Never go with a group of extroverts. They will likely be willing to stay for the entire event and meet people for drinks afterward. Drive separately, or with another introvert and have a set time that you plan to leave. This way you will be able to focus on making the networking event a positive experience for you without worrying about how you will be able to extract yourself. With a little practice, you’ll be a networking pro in no time.