Does the thought of attending international conferences or power brunches send you into a cold sweat?
There’s no need to limit your business plans because you are shy. For introverts, entering a room full of strangers can be daunting at best, but there are a number of ways to play to your strengths and put your best foot forward with minimal discomfort involved.
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1. Focus on quality over quantity.
If you naturally prefer having meaningful one on one conversations rather than being part of a lively crowd, you are not alone! You can use this to your advantage in networking situations by trying to establish connections with people whom you admire or are interested in.
While you may feel too intimidated to speak up in a group, try to arrange for private meetings or email chats.
2. Do your research.
Ahead of attending a networking event, do a little bit of research to find out who’s going to be there and what you can expect. While there’s no need to map out full conversations in advance, you can plan a few icebreakers to prevent you from becoming tongue-tied once you get there.
3. Spark up online conversations first.
Social networking is a positive tool for introverts, allowing you to reach out to those you admire without the need to meet in person. Use tools like LinkedIn to get an introduction from a mutual connection, and start a conversation online. This allows you to get the ball rolling with a new contact, and email cancels out any awkward pauses in the conversation. By the time you meet your new contact in real life, you won’t be strangers any longer.
4. Be a good listener.
Introverts are often exceptional listeners, so this is a potential strength that you’ll want to play to in a room full of people. Not only does it take the pressure off when you allow others to do the talking, but you could learn a lot about your industry. Listen, learn, and ask questions when appropriate. You have the advantage of picking up on details that others might miss, which could help you in future business endeavours.
5. Use marketing techniques to your advantage.
One strategy that can be useful to introverts is to take a step back and think of your business or brand to promote. It may be hard for you to be self-promotional, but if you look at networking as a marketing challenge rather than a social situation, you may feel more confident. It doesn’t hurt to take marketing courses to learn how to sell yourself more effectively.
6. Keep your expectations realistic.
You probably aren’t going to make thousands of new contacts at that upcoming conference, nor would you necessarily want to. Set smaller goals for both online and in-person networking, and you’ll build your confidence one contact at a time. Relax, take some time to plan your strategy, and try to enjoy the event as a learning experience.
Getting out of that comfort zone can be intimidating, but if you want your career to grow it’s best to get out there and try something new. Every new contact will help build your network, bit by bit, without the need to compromise your personality in the process.Rachel MacDonald who is a Glasgow-based freelance writer who has worked as a copywriter for businesses from Lima to London. Her areas of expertise include travel, design, and the arts.