If you follow our social media, you’ll have seen that a few days ago, I shared a video about networking. It was about how I find it nerve-wracking, tiring and generally difficult. But Why? Because I’m an introvert! And you know what else? Tabono’s benchmark for how we deliver our events is established with introverts in mind. Essentially, we think about whether I would be comfortable with how an event is run, and if I would be, we’ve hit the mark. That said, I know that learning to embrace networking is easier said than done. So to build on my video further, I also wanted to share my networking tips for introverts.
My gift, from one introvert to another!
Why is networking important?
Before we get into the tips though, surely the easiest thing for an introvert is to avoid networking and make connections in other ways, right? Wrong. Whether we’re introverts or extroverts, our networks are crucial for the growth and sustainability of our business. Here are just a few of the reasons why:
- Nobody can run a business completely alone. Our support networks both at home and at work, are crucial to our mindset, our wellbeing and our future direction.
- People buy from people, and relationships and reputation are vital. You might meet the perfect customer… and if you don’t, you might meet someone who can introduce you to them!
- By extension, networking can result in opportunities. You might meet someone working in the same, or a complementary space, leading to an opportunity to work together. The same is true of the exchange of ideas.
But even though we know all of these things are true, why do so many of us find networking so difficult? For us introverts, there are many reasons ranging from who to approach and what to say, to even walking into the room in the first place. I totally get it!
So, introvert to introvert, here are my tips.
Networking tips for introverts
1) Plan ahead
Before you attend an event, plan ahead. Try to find out what approach the event will take – eg. informal chat or a particular structure – as well as what the organisers might require from you in terms of introductions or elevator pitches. Figure out a good time to arrive – if you’re nervous, get there early so you don’t need to walk into an already-busy venue. This is something we actively encourage at our own events. Whatever your own concerns, finding out about things in advance and having time to prepare where you need to will give you more confidence on the day.
2) Find out who will be there
Getting a specific list of names and businesses isn’t always possible in advance of the event, but organisers should be able to offer an idea of at leaast the kinds of businesses (and people) that will be present. Is the event male or female-dominated, for example? How big are the businesses that attend? And what are the primary industries that will be represented? Again, this kind of knowledge will enable you to feel informed and prepared in advance. At Tabono, we offer people the option to book a Discovery Call so that we can find out about you and tell you more about how we do things and what to expect – again, with the aim of making your first event as comfortable and as easy as possible for you.
3) Think about your words
To many introverts, myself included, the seemingly simple question ‘what do you do?’ can bring on the nerves! (That’s why we don’t insist on stand-up introductions or worse still, make people present their business in a certain structure!) In these situations, I personally don’t tend to find myself stuck for words, but instead, I’m something of a waffler! But whether you’re a fellow waffler, or you find yourself tongue-tied, it’s worth taking time to plan out what you might say in advance. How can you introduce yourself and your business in a clear, concise, and of course, interesting way? (If this is something you’re not sure of, check out my blog post on elevator pitches.) And what about the small talk? Think of a few conversation starter phrases and questions. There are a great selection (including some for introverts) here if you’re stuck for ideas.
4) Follow up
This part is easier for me. I’m the kind of introvert that struggles with big groups (especially if most people already know each other), but when it comes to small groups or 1-to-1s, I’m much happier. So if you can get yourself to the event in the first place, try to identify a few people to follow up with (but don’t force yourself). Hopefully they will be delighted to hear from you, and in a more comfortable situation, you’ll be able to relax more and start to build a relationship with that person.
5) Get started
Originally, this final networking tip for introverts was going to be called “Be brave”. But actually, telling someone to ‘be brave’ can actually have negative connotations. The need to be brave implies that there is a reason to be nervous. So instead, I’ve gone with ‘get started’, because as with everything, the best way to make progress is to take one step at a time. Also, whatever that first step might be – chatting to an event organiser, looking into events that might suit you, or just deciding to dive in with both feet – know that you can do it. And if you choose to take it with Tabono, know that we’re right there with you.
So there you go. Our networking tips for introverts. Written by an introvert, for introverts. Why not put some of them into practice? And if you have any of your own, add them in the comments!