An introvert's guide to networking
This week I went to an event that I thought was a panel style talk, and ended up majority being all about networking. As an introvert (with social anxiety), finding this out an hour before the event nearly had me bailing at staying home to hide with my cats.
Networking events can be a huge source of stress and anxiety. Between one-third to a half of the population are introverts; humans who prefer intimate settings over crowded social situations with loud and highly stimulated environments being incredibly draining. So entering a room full of strangers with potentially-awkward conversations you don’t know how to start - can sometimes feel like torture.
But I gave myself a pep talk, mentally prepared for the night and made the best out of the situation.
If you’re like me, and the thought of going to a networking event completely freaks you out, here are some steps I take when going to a networking event as an introvert:
Be clear on your why
I like to get clear on why I am pushing myself out of my comfort zone for this event. Is it for professional reasons; to find a new role, new company, a mentor or someone to collaborate with? Or is this a personal reason to make new friends or grow your community?
Getting clear on your why will help you to actually get to the event, give you direction on the shape of your conversations and be the driving force for participating.
Practice your introduction
Going up to a stranger to start a conversation can be so awkward. Practice beforehand your introduction and if this is for professional networking, a little elevator pitch for yourself and your work. This way you won’t panic if someone approaches you, or you can confidently initiate a conversation - remember everyone is in the same boat at these sort of event’s so I’m sure they will be grateful that you approached them.
Stalk the location
If the event is not in your suburb, this can add another layer of anxiety to the situation. I like to be thoroughly prepared with a game plan of how I am getting there/leaving and I check out the place on Google Maps to know what it looks like (sometimes they will have inside pics of the venue as well).
Arrive during “introvert hour”
This is known as the first hour of networking events, as people generally like to arrive a fashionably late. Take advantage of the quiet to make initial conversations and make connections without the craziness of a crowd.
Make it about them
As introverts we are known to be more empathetic and focused on the needs of others - and this is the perfect time to use this skill to your advantage. By being curious and asking people questions, this can create real relationship building conversations rather than just dry, boring small talk. It also protects your energy by not having to talk about yourself so much and listening to others. If you don’t know what questions to ask, here are some ideas.
Set yourself a goal
Showing up and thinking you have to meet as many people as possible would stress anyone out. Instead, I like to set more mindful expectations for myself, such as meeting 1-3 people and engaging in longer conversations with each. Setting these sorts of goals and expectations for yourself will make you less exhausted and enable you to create real connections.
Also remember, you do not need to stay until the final minute. Obviously you can’t rudely leave during a speech, but once you hit your goal and you feel like you’ve accomplished your ‘why’ for the event - feel free to kindly excuse yourself and leave.
Celebrate your achievements
It’s time to celebrate! Congratulate yourself for showing up! It doesn’t matter how many people you meet, but having the confidence to put yourself out there is a win on its own. Now you can go home and show yourself some love through your fave self-care rituals.
Written by Lucy Green; founder of Homebody Club, obsessed with coffee, the moon, deep conversations, nights in and any form of personality test (she’s an Aries / INFJ / Generator / Pitta Vata / Type 1).