Unlock the power of networking as an introvert. Discover proven strategies and tips to confidently build your professional network, both online and in person.
Do you dread the thought of attending a networking event? If you’re a shy person or an introvert, you’re not alone. Many introverts feel intimidated by the prospect of making small talk or engaging in large groups.
But what if we told you that introverts can be just as successful at networking as extroverts, and even have unique strengths that can lead to more meaningful connections?
In this article, we present the ultimate guide to networking for introverts, covering strategies, techniques, and expert advice to help you confidently build your professional network.
We all know that networking plays a vital role in shaping your professional life, especially if you’re an entrepreneur or small business owner. Building strong professional relationships often leads to new opportunities, increased knowledge, client leads, and partnerships, all of which can make a major impact on a business’ success.
And while many introverts may feel out of place at a networking event, we should instead regard it as just another place we can leverage our hidden introverted strengths.
Introverts tend to be more observant, naturally curious, well-prepared, and have masterful listening skills, all of which are advantageous in networking situations.
So, step one is adjusting your mindset. Think of a networking event as something positive, rather than a nerve wracking nightmare. Dorie Clark, the author of Stand Out Networking, puts it this way:
“Networking should never be a forced, painful activity. Approaching it with the right perspective – as a low-pressure way to connect with interesting people – can yield unexpected and gratifying results. If you approach networking as a mandatory obligation, you’ll sabotage your efforts. People will be able to sense your negativity and hesitate to help you. Don’t ruin your chances of connection because you have the wrong attitude. Instead, think of networking as an opportunity to meet people you’ll want to talk to and learn from professionally.”
Matthew himself similarly encourages introverts to view the process differently in his bestselling book, The Introvert’s Edge to Networking:
“Effective networking for introverts doesn’t look like traditional networking at all. In fact, what I’ve learned, experienced, and taught is that introverts have a natural edge when it comes to the way networking should really be done – not playing a numbers game and talking to as many people as possible but by being strategic, being prepared, practicing, and knowing how to cultivate deeper relationships with just a few of exactly the right people in the room. In other words, by playing a totally different game.”
Alright, now that we’ve given you a little inspiration, let’s dive into some networking tips that will leave you wowing your fellow attendees!
Before we address how to approach an in-person event, let’s get the conversation started, so to speak, with how to turn a virtual networking opportunity into a highly successful event – for your contact list and your business as a whole.
In this section, we will explore three key strategies for effective online connection: using social media platforms, attending virtual events, and building rapport with contacts. These strategies will help you maximize your efforts and open up new opportunities.
An easy way to get started with virtual networking is to use social platforms to connect with like-minded professionals, engage in discussion, and build relationships – all without the pressure of in-person events.
Social media, when used properly, helps expand your network and build a solid foundation for future in-person interactions. This approach also allows you to make connect at your own pace, ensuring a more comfortable and successful experience.
As a professional networking site, LinkedIn is the most powerful social platform for any entrepreneur or businessperson. It makes sense to focus your efforts here, rather than spreading them thinly across multiple sites.
Make sure you have a comprehensive profile that highlights your skills, experience, and interests. Join groups related to your industry or areas of interest, as they can be a great source of discussions and information sharing. Participate in these discussions by commenting on posts, sharing your insights, and asking thoughtful questions, which can help you establish your presence and expertise.
Additionally, regularly share content that’s relevant to your industry, such as articles, blog posts, and your own thoughts and observations. This not only keeps your profile active, but also invites others to engage with you. Don’t hesitate to reach out to people whose work you admire or share common interests with – a simple message appreciating their work can be a great conversation starter.
Most important, remember that networking is a two-way street. It’s not just about promoting yourself, but also about listening, engaging, and providing value to others.
Online gatherings allow you to connect with incredible people from all corners of the globe.
These meetings offer numerous benefits, including cost-effectiveness, ease, and an expanded reach.
Keep in mind these tips to maximize the benefits of online gatherings:
Leverage the Chat Function: Most virtual platforms have a chat function. Use it to engage with the content and the attendees. You can ask questions, share insights, or provide helpful resources related to the discussion. This can make you more visible and can prompt people to reach out to you on their own.
Use Virtual Breakout Rooms: Some virtual events use breakout rooms for smaller group discussions. These can provide a more intimate setting to connect with others. Be active in these sessions, ask questions, use casual talking points to build rapport, and share your thoughts.
Update Your Virtual Background: On platforms like Zoom, you can customize your virtual background. Consider using a background related to your industry or interests, which can serve as an icebreaker.
Take Advantage of Virtual Business Cards: Some platforms allow you to share a virtual business card. Make sure yours is up to date, and reflects your personal branding.
Engage on Social Media During the Event: Live-posting or sharing insights from the event on social media can increase your visibility. Make sure to use the event’s official hashtag and tag the speakers or hosts.
Follow Up Quickly: Since a virtual event can host a large number of participants, it’s important to follow up quickly while the interaction is still fresh. Send a personalized message or email referencing the event and what you discussed together.
Prepare Your Online Presence: Before the event, make sure your online profiles are up-to-date. Participants or organizers may look you up during or after the event.
And as always, focus on authenticity, genuine engagement and thoughtful follow-through.
Building rapport online helps create a connection that goes beyond the professional facade and fosters a sense of trust and mutual respect.
Here are some practical tips to help you build rapport effectively in a virtual setting:
Personalize Your Interactions: When reaching out to a new contact or responding to a message, personalize your communication. Mention something specific from their profile, a shared interest, or a point from a previous chat. This shows that you’ve taken the time to understand them and their interests.
Be Responsive: Respond to messages and comments in a timely manner. This shows that you value the other person’s time and are interested in maintaining the conversation.
Share Personal Anecdotes: While maintaining professionalism, don’t shy away from sharing relevant personal anecdotes or experiences. This can make you more relatable and foster a deeper connection.
Provide Value: Whenever possible, provide value in your interactions. This could be sharing a relevant article, providing a solution to a problem, or offering support in their endeavors. This not only helps to build rapport, but also positions you as a valuable contact in their network.
Use Video Calls: When appropriate, suggest a video call. Video calls can be more personal and engaging than text-based communication, allowing for non-verbal cues and a more authentic connection. Use encouraging body language, actively listen, identify shared interests, and ask open-ended questions. Even through a screen, these techniques make all the difference.
Don’t forget that building rapport takes time and consistent effort. Be patient, genuine, and respectful in your interactions, and over time, you’ll see the results.
Group settings can be challenging for introverts, but with the right strategies in place, you can excel in these situations and foster meaningful connections.
In this section, we’ll explore finding a networking partner, preparing for in-person events, and managing energy levels – three essential components for thriving in a group setting.
Navigating the networking landscape can be made significantly easier with the support of a networking partner. This person should ideally share your professional interests and goals, and there should be a mutual respect and understanding between you.
When selecting a networking partner, consider their communication style and social skills. An extroverted colleague or friend, who is comfortable initiating conversations and engaging with new people, can complement an introvert’s more reserved nature. They can help break the ice in group settings and keep the conversation flowing.
However, it’s also important to find a partner who understands and respects your introverted tendencies. They should be someone who can provide social support without overshadowing you. They should be able to strike a balance between facilitating your participation and giving you the space to contribute in your own way.
One excellent way to find a networking partner, and to practice your networking skills in a supportive environment, is to join your local BNI chapter.
While a networking partner can be a great asset, make sure you don’t become overly reliant on them. Networking is about building your own connections and showcasing your personal skills and attributes. Use your partner as a support, but ensure you’re also making an effort to engage directly with others.
Additionally, don’t forget that networking is a reciprocal process. Just as your partner can support you, look for ways you can support them in return. This could be by providing insights on shared professional interests, making introductions where you can, or simply by being a supportive listener.
Preparation is key for introverts attending in-person networking events. By creating an impactful elevator pitch, brainstorming interesting conversation starters, and making a mental list of people to connect with, you can feel more confident and ready to engage with others.
For some great networking tips on preparation, take a listen to the below video from the Quietly Influential Summit, featuring networking expert Nick Shelton:
Taking the time to mentally and physically prepare for networking events can help reduce anxiety and negative feelings, allowing you to make the most of the opportunity.
With a solid plan in place, you’ll be able to focus on building meaningful connections and advancing your career.
Maintaining energy levels is crucial for introverts at networking events. By scheduling breaks and alone time, understanding what activities drain you and how to recharge, and prioritizing self-care, you can effectively stay engaged at events.
In addition, consider setting achievable goals for your networking efforts. This will help you feel more confident and energized, leading to a more successful networking experience.
Some manageable goals for introverts might be:
Number of Connections: Set a goal for the number of new connections you’d like to make. As an introvert, you likely prefer deeper conversations with fewer people, so choose a small number, like two or three new connections per event.
Follow-ups: Set a goal to follow up with the people you connect with at the event. This could be sending a LinkedIn connection request, an email, or setting up a coffee chat. The follow-up is where a lot of the real networking happens.
Participation: Challenge yourself to participate actively in the event. You could ask a question during a Q&A, contribute to a discussion, or even volunteer to help with event logistics.
Personal Challenge: Consider setting a goal that pushes you slightly out of your comfort zone. For example, try initiating a conversation with a speaker, attending a larger event, or sharing your own ideas more openly.
Event Attendance: Set a goal for the number of networking events you’d like to attend over a certain period. You might choose one event per week, or perhaps two events per month, depending on your schedule, the availability of relevant events, and your energy levels.
Nonverbal communication plays a significant role in networking for introverts, helping you create a positive impression, build trust, and establish connections with others.
To maximize the impact of nonverbal communication, keep the below tips in mind:
Eye Contact: Maintain eye contact when speaking with others, to show that you’re engaged and interested in the conversation. Avoiding eye contact detracts from the confident impression you want to give.
Posture: Good posture conveys confidence and professionalism. Stand tall with your shoulders back to show that you’re open and approachable.
Facial Expressions: Be aware of your facial expressions. A genuine smile can make you seem friendly and approachable, while a furrowed brow might suggest you’re confused or upset.
Proximity: Standing too close can make others uncomfortable, while standing too far away might make you seem disinterested.
Mirroring: Subtly mirroring the body language of the person you’re speaking with can enhance a sense of rapport and mutual understanding.
Also note that nonverbal cues can contradict verbal messages. That is, if a person says one thing but their body language says another, the receiver is more likely to trust the nonverbal signal.
To succeed in networking, it’s crucial to hone essential skills such as communication, active listening, relationship building, and follow-up. When you’re adept at these skills, you can truly make the most of your networking opportunities and create lasting professional connections.
A surefire way to cultivate your networking abilities is through an IntrovertU Entrepreneur membership, which you can try risk-free for seven days. Inside, you’ll find several networking micro-courses, interviews with successful introvert networkers, a supportive community, and more.
Networking is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Embrace your unique abilities as an introvert and adapt your networking techniques to fit your goals, preferences, and strengths. With a little planning and practice, you’ll be in the perfect position to forge meaningful relationships and open up new professional opportunities.