5 Networking Tips For Introverts Who Get Nervous Around People

"... listening shows they care about the people speaking, which makes them a more powerful leader."

For many, networking can feel like an unwelcome chore. Networking for introverts can be especially daunting, as these individuals often dread crowds and some may get nervous around people. Yet, while there are no concrete networking tips for introverts that guarantee success, effective networking for introverts often revolves around breaking free from their comfort zone. 

If you're looking for networking strategies for introverts, look to these bits of advice when it comes to preparing for your next event. Here are five tips on how to network as an introvert that will enable you to shine among your peers.

1. Understand your strengths and limitations.

Before you head to an event, take stock of who you are as an individual to ensure that you're always at the top of your game instead of setting yourself up for failure. As Dorie Clark, marketing strategist and professor at Duke Univeristy's Fuqua School of Business, wrote  for Harvard Business Review, you have to understand when you're at your best in order to gain the most from your new connections.

"Early in my career, I dutifully signed up to attend 500-person networking breakfasts, because "that's what you do" as a businessperson. I eventually realized the shock of waking up at 6 a.m. to get downtown in time was making my entire day less productive, so I swore them off," she explains. 

"For introverts, networking requires a little more cognitive effort: it's fun, but you have to psych yourself up to be "on." I don't need to have the additional burden of doing it when I'm tired," she added. "I now stack the deck in my favor by refusing any meetings before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m."

2. Break free from you comfort zone and introduce yourself.

While it might sound counterintuitive to encourage an introverted person to make the first move, such initiation might actually help that person feel more in control of the social situation as it's happening on their terms. As Anna Runyan, founder of Classy Career Girl™, writes for The Muse, always have an opening line -- "Have you been to this before?" in your arsenal just in case.

"Remember that most people in the room at any given networking event feel the same way you do: scared to death," Runyan writes. "So, instead of dwelling on how scary it is to start a conversation, think about how by doing so you'll be helping other people feel more comfortable. Maybe that girl alone at the table doesn't know anyone either and is just hoping that someone will come talk to her. Be that person!"

3. Bring an extroverted friend along to break the ice when necessary.

Being alone in a room full of strangers is the idea that keeps many introverts away from networking events," Assya Barrette writes for Founder magazine. "Instead, don't be alone — bring a friend, preferably an extroverted one."

As Barrette explains, an extroverted friend can help break the ice and introduce you so you don't have to do all the dirty work yourself. You and your friend can also become the ones who create conversation circles, thereby becoming the ones who really get things going at an event. If nothing else, your friend can boost your confidence when you're feeling nervous or uncertain.

"Having some emotional support is very helpful for introverts during taxing networking events," she added. "If you have one handy, definitely bring them over to help things along."

4. Research attendees and connect online prior to the event.

"Before the event find a list of attendees and do some online research about them, pick the ones you want to know," Michael S. Solomon, co-founder and managing partner of 10x Management, writes for HuffPost. "If you feel comfortable with it, connect online prior to the event and arrange a quick one-on-one session during a break at the event. This often allows you to have a more substantive conversation since you will know a bit about each other from the start."

By doing so, not only will you be able to break the ice online prior to the event, thereby avoiding the awkwardness of face-to-face introductions, but you'll also be able to cut to the chase and get the most out of your in-person meeting.

5. Embrace your natural ability to listen well.

While introverts might not be known for their love of small talk, no matter the topic of conversation, they are famous for their capacity to listen intently.

"Introverts can use their abilities to deeply listen and evaluate business opportunities. From there, they can come back with more intelligent answers," Ashley Mady of Brandberry tells AllBusiness. "Also, listening shows they care about the people speaking, which makes them a more powerful leader."

Not only does this tendency to listen gain the respect of those who thrive on sharing their ideas, but it also affords introverts the opportunity to take their time formulating responses and follow-up questions. Many people fail to listen, as they spend the time mentally preparing how they will respond in such situations, but introverts excel, as they prefer to take in everything around them before reacting to these new connections have said.

Cover image via Sharon McCutcheon I Unsplash

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