Close your eyes for a moment and imagine: you are standing in the middle of a conference with a sea of people surrounding you. What are you feeling?
If you’re excited about the prospect of meeting new people and making new connections, then you are probably an extrovert. But, if a feeling of dread is sitting in the pit of your stomach, then you are most likely an introvert. However, this does not mean that you cannot thrive at a business networking event! If you are an introvert, read this blog post. It just might change your life.
This guide for introverts is designed to make event networking easier. If you follow this advice, I promise that the next networking event or conference you attend will be more manageable and successful.
10 Business Networking Tips:
1. Network online
Before you attend a networking event, you can research who is attending to find people who will be worth meeting. The Bizzabo networking app is designed with this purpose in mind. Mark other attendees as leads, thoroughly research their LinkedIn connected profiles and send them pre-event in-app messages. Other services like the Google Chrome plugin, Rapportive are also helpful for preparing before a networking event.
2. Initiate conversations
It may be difficult for an introvert to initiate conversations, but there are plenty of benefits that come with taking the lead. When you start a conversation, you have control of the situation. You get to pick the topic of conversation. Talk about your company or a hobby of yours - something you have a great deal of knowledge about. Conversation flows more easily when you are comfortable with the subject matter.
3. Pick the people who seem interesting to you
It’s easier to complete tasks that you are interested in. The same goes for this business networking tip. Talking with someone who seems interesting and open is easier than striking up a conversation with someone who seems disinterested. The people you want to talk to are engaged with others and give off a warm presence.
4. Start small
Most introverts prefer one-on-one conversations to group interaction. However, it may not be possible to have one-on-ones throughout the whole event, especially at a large networking conference. Talk to small groups of people at a time to avoid being overwhelmed. If you had the chance to meet with someone in a one-on-one setting, join them in a group conversation later on. Also, asking new connections to introduce you to someone they’ve already met at the conference can help you ease into new conversations with new people.
5. Ask open-ended questions
If you feel there is a lot of social pressure on you, remember this business networking tip: let the other person take the lead. People love to talk about themselves and will do so willingly if you give them the chance.
Start by asking them what they do. Then try asking them a follow up question, like how they like working for their company, or what their biggest challenges at work are, or what they hope to get out of the conference.
When the conversation is winding down, don’t be afraid to ask them for their business card and excuse yourself by saying you want to say hi to another attendee. After the event is over, remember to follow up with your new contact over email, LinkedIn, or the event’s event app.
6. Listen and empathize
Introverts are great listeners, use this skill to your advantage. Listening allows you to ask better, more thoughtful follow-up questions, which in turn makes it easier for you to connect with new people.
If you can, try to empathize with the person or people you’re talking to. By putting yourself in their shoes, you’ll be able to better contribute to the conversation.
For example, if they are complaining about a problem at work that you have already faced, recall this business networking tip and mention a few tools or quick tips for dealing with that issue. Listening, empathizing and ultimately taking an interest in your new contacts makes them feel valued and more connected to you.
7. Practice and plan ahead
Preparedness breeds comfort. Before attending your networking event, rehearse in your head, or aloud, conversation starters and conversation enders that you plan to use. Rather than formulating a script for yourself, think about key points you would like to mention in both phases of the conversation, and then bring them up when you feel it’s appropriate.
The best networkers are the ones who speak extemporaneously. They have an outline of what they plan to say in their head, and allow themselves to naturally communicate from there.
8. Have a purpose
Attending a networking event and not knowing what you’re supposed to be doing only adds to a sense of aimlessness that introverts tend to find uncomfortable when surrounded by unknown people. The good news is you can avoid uncomfortable moments with a little meditation on the purpose of your networking. Before you walk in the door, line up as many activities for yourself as possible. Do pre-event research, plan your event schedule, and reach out to other attendees to set up one-on-one meetings.
9. Suck it up
So, meeting new people in large groups is uncomfortable. It just so happens that the other people at the event you’re attending also find it uncomfortable, and are hungry to make a real connection with someone else to make the event more enjoyable. If you are brave, and put yourself out there first, you will meet other interesting people who will find you interesting too. Take a deep breath, smile, and network.
10. Organize an after-hours group activity
It might sound counter-intuitive to tell an introvert who doesn’t enjoy networking in groups to reach out to strangers and invite them to an after-hours activity, but this is a surefire way to build your network.
Invite attendees out to a group dinner after the event. You can ask the event organizer for email addresses of attendees who work in the same field as you do, and then write an introductory email and explain what you’re hoping to do. Ask for recommendations about where to eat. As the person who organized the event, you'll able to have more control over the whole experience while making valuable connections related to your business.
While it may seem like a daunting task for introverts, networking is a skill that anyone can master. For more helpful business networking tips, check out this article on how to break the ice, or this article on how to find networking “super connectors”.
Whether you're an event-goer or an event organizer, the more knowledge you have, the better! Click the below button for awesome Bizzabo resources. Your brain will thank you.