For introverts, the idea of professional networking—particularly in a face-to-face scenario—is a daunting one well outside the typical shy, quiet person’s comfort zone. But as introvert expert Susan Cain points out in her 16-point Manifesto, “Sometimes it helps to be a pretend-extrovert. There’s always time to be quiet later.” Take her wisdom to heart and follow these simple tips to help you get through your next networking event or conference.
To help ease your nerves on the day of the event, it’s crucial to prepare beforehand. Rehearse your personal elevator pitch (but not so much so that it sounds rehearsed!). Also, set a goal for the day, whether it’s to have conversations with five new people or to hand out 15 resumes, and then envision yourself successfully completing it. Hire a printing service to produce business cards you can distribute to help you make a lasting impression without being too heavy-handed.
Bring a friend
Having an ally you already know can make it easier to approach new people in an unfamiliar situation. It’s especially helpful if your friend happens to be an extrovert!
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One area most introverts are strong in is listening skills. Take advantage of that ability at networking events by asking a lot of questions and listening well to the responses. You’ll be remembered as a great conversationalist because you kept the other person talking and made her feel good by expressing genuine interest in what she had to say.
Know you’re not alone
It sounds elementary, but bearing in mind that you’re not the only introvert in the room—and that, in fact, most people there, introvert or otherwise, are feeling nervous—can help make networking events easier. Roughly two thirds to one half of the population are introverts, so you’re likely in good—introverted—company at your conference.
Introverts tend to forget that their fear of approaching others can sometimes make them unapproachable themselves. Try to loosen up and smile at people to encourage them to approach you. You’ll leave a better impression and take some of the pressure off yourself.
Follow up in writing
If you leave the networking event feeling like there was someone with whom you made a connection, do what many introverts do best and express yourself in writing. Send a follow-up e-mail or letter expressing how much you enjoyed meeting that person and suggest a second meeting like lunch or a coffee date.
As you enter into your conference or networking event, remember that there are plenty of successful introverts who have come before you to pave the way for other shy, quiet people in the business world. Put on a brave face and prepare to step out of your comfort zone a bit. Just remember to be yourself and to behave only in ways that remain authentic to who you really are.