Who will be there? Will I know anyone? What will we eat? Should I bring something? When should I be there? When will other people be there? Will we go out afterwards? What if we don’t have anything to talk about?
Do you recognize that inner dialog before a dinner party?
If you do, chances are you are like me — An introvert that hates “networking”.
Don’t worry though, you’re not alone. About 30-50% of us are introverts.
Introverts get drained from social events. An extrovert person might gain energy from talking to 50 strangers for three hours. Introverts don’t. We get exhausted.
What is your spontaneous reaction when you read the following words?
- Career fair
- Trade show
- Team building
If your reaction is to desperately try to come up with an excuse not to go, please continue reading.
Why is networking important?
So you are an introvert. You struggle to survive at loud events with high energy strangers. You feel bleak. You feel like your true self is not coming across.
Does this mean you should give up networking?
The short answer is No, you should not.
Networking is just a fancy word for getting to know people.
Which, of course, is a crucial skill in all areas of life. You can’t be successful without other people.
So how do we go about networking if we can’t effortlessly mingle with strangers and deliver high energy conversations all night?
Networking activities for introverts
The first step is to limit or erase classical networking events from your calendar. Remove what’s not working.
There are plenty of networking activities that are perfect for introverts. The general rule is to limit the number of people you interact with at the same time. Preferably to one or two persons.
Here are some examples:
Meals – Everyone has to eat. Make a list of people you want to get to know better and ask them out for lunch. I read somewhere that there is a biological bonding effect of sharing a meal with another human. That’s how cave-guys and cave-girls used to hang out, I guess. 10 000 years later and it still works.
Interviews – Start a podcast, a blog or whatever. Reach out to people you want to know better or learn from. Ask if they want to do an interview with you. Do a good job, share what you learn and follow up.
Calls – Calls are powerful. They’re intimate. They’re perfect for introverts. Schedule calls with customers, bosses and mentors.
How To Make it Productive
Great, you’ve scheduled lunches and a few interviews. What the hell do you do now?
First off, don’t ask what your network can do for you, ask what you can do for your network.
This is a point worth stressing. You have to figure out how to be valuable. If you give value you get value.
Below are a few thoughts on how to be valuable for the person you are interacting with.
Permission Networking – As made famous by James Altucher (I think). The idea is simple. Take two persons who you think could help each other in some way. Ask each person if they would like to be connected to the other person. If both persons say yes, write a short introduction email and then get out of the way. You don’t take a cut or a commission or ask them to buy you lunch.
Find out what the other person is worried about – All of us are worried. We worry about choosing the right education, partner and job. We worry that our boss hates us. We worry about the weather. And presentations also. Find out what the other person is worried about and try to help them not to worry so much.
Prepare – Do research on the person you are meeting with. Have they written anything lately? Have they shared something? Switched jobs? What are they excited about? Come up with ten ideas to help them in their area before the meeting.
There you have it.
These tactics won’t stop your inner dialog before a dinner party or make you more energetic. They will, however, make you a networking machine.
Networking is just a fancy word for getting to know people. And knowing the right people is essential in all areas of life.
And you don’t have to get to know 50 people at the same time, if that’s not your style.
If you feel like you don’t perform on big networking events, take control of your network. Take the battle to your home court.
Good networking activities for introverts:
- Meals – Everyone has to eat, no more than three persons.
- Interviews – Take the chance to ask everything you wonder about a specific industry or role.
- Calls – Intimate and powerful. Also, if it’s nice weather you can take a walk at the same time. Win-win.
Your next step is to do the following:
- Make a list of 10 people you want to reconnect/connect with.
- Send an email to each one of them and ask to take them out for lunch/interview them/call them.
- Make a list of 5 people you can connect the person to. Make a list of 10 ideas on how they can improve their business.
- When you meet the person: Listen, figure out what they worry about and help them not to worry.
- Connect them to people who can help them. Give them ideas on how they can improve their business or career.
- Go to a really big Trade Show and randomly talk to as many people as you can. Just kidding, don’t do that. You deserve better.