Love it or hate it, there’s no denying networking is pretty essential, and even game-changing, when you run a small business. But for many of us, just the idea of it can make us nervous or anxious. The thought of standing up and speaking to a crowd of people. The need to just strike up a conversation with people you don’t know. Worrying about how to succinctly convey what you do, to others! But we promise you – networking is for introverts AND extroverts!
If you’re an introvert, your palms are probably feeling sweaty and you’re probably thinking of of reasons why you don’t need to go! But it doesn’t have to be like this.
It’s true. Some of us may find networking more doable than others. Perhaps you’re an extrovert, and actually the thought of meeting up with other, possibly like-minded people, is a joy! And for those of us who are more introverted and find it much more stressful, there are things we can do to make it easier.
So we’ve put together some networking tips for both introverts and extroverts. Whichever you are, we promise – networking is for you!
Tips for introverts
If you’re more reluctant to go networking, it’s likely you will think that nipping in just after it starts will mean you go under the radar a bit more. In fact, this is counter intuitive, and the best thing you could do is arrive early. Yes, really! Being early allows you to work out the space you’re in, meet whoever is running the event, and feel comfortable before it becomes crowded. It also means when people arrive they will naturally come towards you to start a conversation, which takes the pressure off you a little bit.
Say thank you
If you’re worried about ending up in a conversation that’s going nowhere, and you would prefer to free yourself up and move on, just thank the person for chatting and let them know you need to grab a glass of water or pop to the bathroom. No offence will be taken.
Make your life as easy as possible by not having lots of things to carry! If you bring a bag, either make sure it is out of your way on your shoulder, or put it somewhere safe so your free to shake hands and hold a cup of coffee.
Don’t forget your business cards
Do have business cards to hand. Even if you’re not ready yet, get something simple that can be easily changed. Many people may want your details, and having cards makes it easier and much more professional.
Keep it short
If you are required to give an elevator pitch, keep it short and simple. The purpose is to let the other attendees know who you are and what you do. If you waffle, people will switch off and get confused. So stick to the point. Who are you, what do you do, and who would you like to connect with?
Look for the right energy
Find a networking group that works for you. If you’re more comfortable with same sex networking, go for that. Looking for structure? Seek out that style. If you want no commitment, just drop in, there are plenty of groups to accommodate you.
If something doesn’t work, let it go. Persisting with networking groups that don’t suit you will only damage your confidence. Find ones that are energising for you, not terrifying!
Tips for extroverts:
Channel those social skills
So here’s where your sociable skills can help out the introverts! If you’re in a conversation with someone else, or a group, be mindful of anyone looking lost and invite them in to join the chat – they will be so grateful, and it might Just be a great connection for you.
Be careful not to dominate the conversation or talk about yourself too much. Networking is a lot about finding out what others do and how you might be able to help them connect with others. If you show interest, and ask some good, open questions, they will most likely be very interested back. And you will learn a lot too!
Bring people together
As an extrovert, it’s likely you will make many connections through networking. As someone who knows lots of people, and is comfortable and outgoing, use that gift to connect others. You will really stand out and be remembered if you’re able to give some valuable help.
Mix it up
Extroverts can be drawn to other extroverts, and the ideal whilst networking is to meet lots of different types of people. So cast the net and head for people you might otherwise overlook.
Make others comfortable
If you’re speaking to someone more introverted, and you sense they are uncomfortable, try breaking the ice and setting them at ease. Point out that you know networking can feel awkward. Once they know you understand that, it might just help them get past their nerves and relax.
Calm it down and stay focused
Your enthusiasm and energy is great, just be sure to read others as well as you can, and if it seems you might be a bit much for someone, time it down a little. Also, try to maintain focus. Extroverts can be easily distracted, so make sure whoever you’re chatting to has your full attention.
So there you go – our networking tips for introverts and extroverts! Will you be putting them into practice? And for a little further reading, check out our post on the importance of feet! We’d love to know if you have any particular tips you’d like to share about networking, or about any experiences you’ve had too!