By Andrea Hoffer Special to The Pineapple I am often asked to provide networking tips. I find this funny as networking is not an area I find easy. I am an introvert. Networking takes me out of my comfort zone. I have learned over the years that networking is a necessary part of building a business or getting ahead in a career. I see it as a necessary challenge and often come away from a networking event with a sense of accomplishment and sometimes even find it fun. The title of this article is, “Networking for Introverts.” As I mentioned, I am an introvert. What is an introvert? The main difference between being a introvert or being an extrovert is where you get your energy. Extroverts get their energy from other people. They love being around others and feed off of them. Introverts get their energy from having time alone or with one other person. Does this mean that introverts don’t like to be around others? Absolutely not! Introverts enjoy the company of new and old friends just as much as extroverts, they just use more energy when they are interacting with others. Please don’t confuse being introverted with being shy. Shyness has an element of fear. Introverts are not always shy. It may take more energy for them to approach someone new, but that doesn’t mean fear is what holding them back. In fact, both introverts and extroverts may sometimes have some trepidation about introducing themselves to someone new. It makes us vulnerable to open ourselves up to new people. Introverts often view attending networking events like one may view working out. They are tired from their day and the thought of pushing themselves to get on that treadmill seems exhausting. Here are some tips to get you out the door and on that networking treadmill.
- Figure out why you want to network? What are the benefits you are hoping to achieve? If you want to build your business, what specific benefits will you gain from networking that will help you to achieve this goal? Once you figure this out, write it down. Refer to this list whenever you are considering going to a networking event. Measure if the event you are considering will provide you with the benefits you want.
- Set goals. Make your goals realistic. You know yourself. Don’t set a goal of attending three events a week if your schedule and mind can’t handle it. Start off with one event per month to get yourself use to the idea. Don’t only set a goal of how many events you are going to attend, but for how long you are going to be there and how many people you are going to speak with. Just like with the treadmill, if you tell yourself you are only going to stay for twenty minutes and speak with one person, you may be surprised that you end up staying for 30 or 40 minutes and making two new contacts. It is easier to push yourself to get on that treadmill the first few times if you give yourself goals that are easily attainable.
- Volunteer for a project or committee. Find an organization that you feel could generate strong leads for you and get involved. Introverts often find it easier to work on a project with a small group of people than to walk into a noisy room full of people they don’t know. You will make a name for yourself through your efforts with the project and will find that you make valuable contacts along the way.
- Capitalize on your listening skills. Successful introverts have learned to listen effectively. People love to know you are listening to them and care what they have to say. Networking is about making a connection. Really listen to what your new contact is saying. You may be able to fulfill a need for them or refer them to someone who can. They will remember you for it.
- Remember why you do what you do. Sometimes when an event is draining our energy, we forget to show how passionate we are about our business. Find a way to tap into that passion even when you are tired. You never know when you are speaking with someone who could be a great connection or client if they feel you believe in yourself and what you do.
- Meet people in the restroom. Some of my best connections were made in the restroom or on line for the restroom. This may work better for women, but men find some value in it as well. The restroom or a small area away from main socializing often provides an oasis for introverts. The one to many scenario that drains our energy now becomes one to one or one to few. It gives you an opportunity to make a connection in an environment that is more comfortable for you. Take advantage of it.
- Look for events that fit for you. If you have more energy in the morning, then look for breakfast events. You may find that sit down lunches work well for you. These type of events provide a built in small group within a larger group. My favorite type of event is where the organizer creates a small exercise, like human bingo, where you can win a prize. I find it easier to maneuver the crowd because I am given a purpose for speaking with each individual.
- Know when it is time to go home. While this may be self-evident, we sometimes stay at an event past the time we are being effective. If your energy is lagging and you know you aren’t putting your best foot forward, give yourself permission to go home.
The next time you tell yourself you don’t network because it doesn’t work for you or you don’t have enough energy, ask yourself if you have thought about the best networking approach for you. Andrea Hoffer brings a unique perspective to consulting and training. A small business owner with 35 employees herself, she knows first hand the everyday challenges of motivating employees, exceeding customer expectations, and meeting business and revenue goals. Contact Andrea to help you improve the experience you offer your customers and employees. www.andreahofferassociates.com 561-829-5611 firstname.lastname@example.org