Being an introvert and shy might seem like a bad combo for a business owner. However, studies have found that introverts actually make really good leaders. If you can get past your shyness to be able to network with people, then you’re really unstoppable in business.
If the thought of going to a conference or fundraising party has you wanting to curl up in a ball and hide in the corner instead, then try these tips for networking when you’re introverted.
If you’re getting ready to go to a large event and find yourself in a panic at the mere thought of it, then change your thinking. Focus on something smaller and not the large room of people. Focus on your goals and what you would like to accomplish at the event instead. Don’t overstay either. It’s okay to duck out early once you have made your meaningful connections.
2. Prepare yourself in advance
Know who’s going to be at the event and figure out who you’d like to connect with. You can email the person in advance and let them know that you’d like to connect with them and why. Do a little research on their interests as well, to give you some talking points when you do meet.
3. Work the event
See if you can help plan or set up the event. This will help you to know who the key players are in advance. You can always be the one who picks up someone from the airport to bring to the event so you can have a little one-on-one face time in a less intimidating environment.
4. Use your shyness as a strength
Introverts make really great listeners, and this is actually a really great way to get people interested in you. If you can muster up the courage to start off with an ice breaker question (like asking what someone thought of the speaker) and then just do what comes naturally to you and listen, then you have marked yourself as someone who can be counted on.
5. Practice makes perfect
Part of what can make you nervous as an introvert is fear of the unknown. The more events you make a point to attend and practice your elevator speech at, the better and easier it will get for you. If you know that you have a really important event coming up, then try attending a few other events in advance of it to try out your talk with others first. In this way, you can get it down pat for the moment when it really matters.
6. Wrap it up
You need to keep the goal in mind the whole while you’re talking with someone. As the conversation comes to a close, make sure that you get a plan in the books to meet again. Exchange business cards and jot some notes down on their card about what you discussed. The next day, send a follow-up email thanking them for the conversation about x, y, and z, and then firm up your plans for coffee and an opportunity to talk more. You’ll be “in like Flynn” as they say.
Ultimately, the introvert’s best friend is going to be a plan. Go in with a plan after doing plenty of research, and you’ll leave with the start of the expansion of your network.