Have you ever felt awkward and self-conscious in the presence of strangers? Do you dread going to meetups where you don’t know anyone? Is business networking difficult for you?
If you are an introvert who likes to be in your own private space, then the answer to these questions is probably yes. That was certainly my experience. As the CEO of my company, Aligned Signs, I knew networking was of the utmost importance to get my company on the map. But I frequently found it difficult to hit my stride.
In current times, networks matter. Social and professional pressures drive introverts towards opening up and communicating with people more than they might ideally prefer. When among people, many introverts wish they had the energy levels and skills to excel in these situations.
So, are there ways to cope better?
Yes, there are. In fact, with some effort and the following smart tips, it will be easy for you to start making better connections, even with people you don’t know much about. Here are some of the strategies I discovered to network like a pro.
Plan and Visualize
Envision yourself at the event. Chart out a few simple goals. It could be as concrete as “I will get two phone numbers tonight and follow up next week” or as simple as “I will walk up to six new people and talk for two minutes.” Make plans about what you will talk about, questions you will ask, and answers you will give. After four or five events, the preparation will become second nature to you and things will become easier.
This is important. As an introvert, you are more likely to be overwhelmed when you reach an event. You’ll often find that everyone is already deep in conversation or having a good time and you have nowhere to go! To counter this, show up 20 minutes before and introduce yourself to a couple of the early attendees. A few of them will surely be without company. Not only are you more likely to get favorable responses, it will also likely increase your involvement for the rest of the event.
Join a Queue
It seems a little odd, but if you find yourself part of the line to the restroom, food counter or name tag collection, there are probably two people near you at all times. Striking up conversation about the queue is an easy way to begin conversation.
Break It Up
Reward yourself with breaks after every connection. Make a point to take notes on the business cards you get. This will allow for better memory and follow up. Have a drink or enjoy your food while you unwind from your interactions.
If you do not follow up, there really is no point. Do it early so the information you just learned is top of mind. Follow up first with people with whom you felt a better vibe.
Armed with these networking tips, even the timidest of introverts might find it a little easier to interact at an upcoming party or networking event. Try them out — you may just uncover a deeper conversation with an attendee and meet your next mentor or business partner.
This article has been edited and condensed.
Jessica M. Baker is the Founder and CEO of Aligned Signs, the only patented self-discovery and relationship tool of its kind. Ms. Baker fuels her business ventures with expertise gained from nine years of experience in finance, business analysis, client management and research. Jessica graduated summa cum laude with a Master of Business Administration in Finance and a Bachelor of Science in biology from the University of Texas.
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