Playing to your strengths is a big part of success. Many introverted or shy individuals make the mistake of limiting themselves, feeling that because they don’t seem to fit the traditional image of an entrepreneur, they have little chance making it big. This is a mistake as success comes in many forms and in most cases there are many alternate ways to reach the same goal.
Attending networking events is a common trend and they are designed with certain personality types in mind – those confident, charming, chatty people who can talk up a storm with a perfect stranger. Of course, that same situation would be overwhelming and stressful for an introvert, leading only to sweaty palms and trembling with fear.
While it might be impossible to hide in the shadows and successfully network, there is no reason why you need to be the main attraction in order to make new connections. Instead, play to your strengths, networking in a way that allows you to show your true personality.
1. Keep It Real. If you know that large networking events make you nervous, don’t worry about it or over think the situation. Instead of trying to meet with and connect with everyone, aim for one or two good conversations.
2. Plan ahead. Prepare a few icebreakers or conversation starters to help keep things flowing, include a few open ended questions on topics that can get a conversation started. The majority of people love talking about themselves, so ask questions about their interests, hobbies and business.
3. Set A Cut Off Time. Setting a time limit is a great way to get those nerves under control as you know how long the event will last. Give yourself half an hour to get in, get a drink and meet one new person. You might find that you feel much more comfortable by then and ready to stay longer and make more contacts.
4. Get an Introduction. If there is someone you would like to meet at an event, finding a common connection to introduce you can help kill some of the initial awkwardness and nerves. If all else fails, asking the host of the event to introduce you.
5. Use Your Empathetic Listening Skills. Most introverts make great listener as they are less inclined to talk so master the art of fully engaged listening. Use that to your advantage, and stand out as an attentive person who sees the value in others.
6. Talk About Yourself. Sharing personal stories might be challenging, but having a few go to personal anecdotes is a great way to add to the conversation. However, if you spend the whole time listening and asking questions it might feel like an interrogation after a while.
7. Practice meeting new people. Meeting new people and practising in less stressful situations might be a good idea. Try talking to someone in the elevator, the park or a local bar to practice your skills and see what works and what doesn’t.
8. Start off small. In time you will become more comfortable with networking, but until then try not to push yourself too hard and take on too much. Starting small will help you build confidence and you’ll be more successful in your networking efforts.