Over the years, I’ve mastered the art of networking, but I have to admit as an “extroverted introvert” (yeah, most people wouldn’t guess I’m actually an introvert), networking can be draining and I have to be prepared to make it worth my time. Networking can be a stressor for just about anyone, but introverts often experience dread at the simple thought of entering a room full of strangers and having to hold a conversation. Luckily, following a few key tips can ease some of the anxiety and bring about beneficial results for those of us who would rather be at home with our dogs watching a movie with a pizza in our lap (I'm not the only one, right? Right?).
Since building new relationships is imperative to success in nearly every industry, here are some things to master when meeting new people:
1. Prepare yourself. - You can make networking a little easier on yourself simply by considering a few things ahead of time. First, you'll want to determine who your counterparts will be. What types of people are you expecting to encounter, what industry, what areas of expertise? Second, you'll need to dress the part accordingly. This doesn't mean you must compromise your style, but you clearly don't want look out of place. A political or corporate event isn't going to require the same attire as a mixer or an afterparty. Third, ground yourself and focus your energy beforehand (and even during, as needed). I often sit in my car and replenish myself between meetings or events. Also, be positive. If you’re in a bad mood before your networking event, adjust yourself because your vibes will be evident and will automatically sabotage your first impressions.
It's also helpful to envision how you want the event and conversations to go. Imagine being confident, positive, helpful, interested, and impressive. Spend 5 minutes in your car visualizing exactly how you want your situations to play out and how you'd like others to respond to you before heading inside.
2. Be authentic. - We have to remember how easy it is to see through fake or selfish intentions. In a meeting, someone recently used the term "nobody likes Carl the Card Collector." That's such a true statement - When someone is just giving and taking cards before quickly moving onto the next person all night, it's evident they're not genuine. Another key point that seems like common sense but is often overlooked is the importance of truly being yourself. It's easy to think others only want to be around the excited extrovert, but that's not always the case. You being YOU will attract others similar to you, and they'll likely be grateful to have another complementary person to converse with.
3. Find something you can relate to. - Pay attention and seek out relatable topics you can compliment or speak on, such as items of clothing, accessories, job/industry similarities, college, area of town, etc. There's something in everyone we can identify with, so following your intuition and picking up on where that connection may be hiding is key. Listen and ask questions others would be interested in answering. Most people like to talk about their business and business interests, so seeking out their passions and learning more about their pursuits (or even hobbies) can be the perfect way to win someone over in conversation.
Understand networking can be win-win. It’s not simply about getting more clients or building your professional visibility, but think in terms of “what do I have to offer this person?” as well. That alone can open the floodgates to more opportunities moving forward.
The most important thing to remember is this: You want people to walk away from you FEELING GOOD and knowing you had genuine interest in what they were talking about. As the saying goes, “People don’t always remember what you said or did, but they’ll remember how you made them feel.”
Photo by Mag Pole on Unsplash