Have you read Susan Cain's book Quiet? I'll admit that it's one of the books on my far-too-long list of books waiting to be read, but I'm intrigued by the idea and thankful it exists. I'm a serious introvert, and it seems to be an aspect of my personality that only grows as I age. Or maybe I'm just leaning into it more - either way, it's something I'm much more aware of now than I was five years ago.
Some people are surprised to hear that as a small business owner, a life coach, and a public speaker, I still consider myself introverted. How can that be, when I spend so much of my day talking to people and large groups? Being introverted doesn't mean that I'm shy or awkward, it means that I prefer and crave alone time to process and recharge. I spend a lot of time in my head - thinking, creating, articulating, and dreaming. Being in my head is a natural state of being for me, while sharing those thoughts with the world is a process that requires conscious effort.
I have zero shame in my introversion game, and I 'm a big proponent of working with your natural tendencies rather than against them. I'm even working on some self-care tips for introverts (coming soon!). However, sometimes it can be helpful to hack our own tendencies, in order to reap specific benefits.
One of the biggest challenges in being a small business owner and an introvert is mastering the art of networking. And believe me, it's definitely an art! It's also not a playing field only for extroverts: your presence as an introvert at these functions actually elevates the conversation. As Cain mentions in her book, small talk often feels like a death sentence to introverts, which is one reason we can feel incompatible with the concept of networking as a whole. So by mastering how you want to show up and share your ideas, you're contributing to making the entire experience more meaningful and connection focused for everyone. Pretty sweet, right?
These are the 5 tips I use to ensure a powerful experience when I'm prepping for a networking event.
Commit to attending a specific number of events every month. You pick a number that makes sense for you and your calendar. Even committing to just one event a month is valuable! If you attend one networking event and feel uncomfortable, like you didn't see the value, or both, it's tempting to never attend another. Please don't do this! As with any new skill, practice is crucial. You have to give yourself permission to be a beginner, and allow your networking muscles to strengthen over time.
Remind yourself of why this matters to you, your business, and your personal goals. Unless you're grounded in your motivation, it will be really tempting to push this networking thing to the bottom of your to do list. You'll find every excuse to justify a delay, especially if you're feeling less than excited to attend. The truth is that networking (or lack thereof) can have massive ramifications on your business and personal goals. Networking is the equivalent of pre-internet social media: it's how people in your community will learn who you are and why you matter. And you do! It's an organic and free way to generate traffic to your business, and referrals can truly become the backbone of your business. Plus, if you're looking to meet some specific personal goals, you'll have a much greater opportunity to meet a professional who can help make those goals possible if you leave your house. 😉
Find a networking buddy and don't let each other flake. If you're feeling unsure, unmotivated or out of practice when it comes to promoting yourself and your work at these events, practice on your friend. Set a goal to be their biggest advocate at the event you're attending together, and have them do the same. Not only will talking up someone else make you seem genuine and friendly, but it takes the pressure off of your buddy to pitch themselves.
Decide on a game plan with your networking buddy before you walk through the doors. In order to build up your networking buddy as an expert and as desirable, you have to know what they're looking for. Ask them a few basic questions so you know where to direct the conversation about them. Ask: Is there anyone in particular you want to meet tonight? Is there a specific action or goal you're looking to accomplish? Do you have a focus in your business currently? How many people do you want to connect with? Keep their answers in mind as you meet individuals throughout the night. Giving your buddy one powerful introduction to someone they're looking to meet will be much more valuable than talking them up to anyone and everyone without a clear purpose.
Give to receive. It's easy to feel pressured to push yourself HARD when you attend these events. After all, you want to maximize your networking time so that you have to do it less often, right? I encourage you to think about this differently. Rather than focusing on your personal goals and connections during the event, I suggest you seek to make as many introductions and connections between others as possible and appropriate. You're building goodwill by helping the people around you succeed, and you're winning your own supporters in the process. If you've given someone else the gift of business and support, they're much more likely to return in kind down the line. Focus on giving, and know that the receiving will come.
Which of these tips was most helpful, fellow introverts? I'd love to hear in the comments whether you utilized these tips at your next networking event. You've got this!