Article by Patricia Bacon
Susan Cain sums up lots of great things around introversion in her book, Quiet, and her Ted talk is brilliant to watch (https://www.ted.com/talks/susan_cain_the_power_of_introverts). She shares just how challenging it can be for introverts to have the energy to go out and network – even citing a University Professor who is brilliant at delivering an annual lecture and follow up questions with the audience but finds the idea of a lunch with everyone before his talk just too much to take on so politely declines this.
It is also worth noting ‘networking’ isn’t just about going to an event and striking up conversations with strangers – networking permeates all areas of our lives and when done right it can be life enhancing and very enjoyable. But often it can be an introvert’s worst nightmare and the thought of it feels excruciating. Indeed, even the most gregarious extroverts can find it exhausting and somewhat uncomfortable, particularly at networking events where they know noone). Let’s consider, therefore, what advice we would we give to support introverts with their networking.
Start early and nurture the relationship – a friend of mine’s 15 year old daughter recently shadowed me for work experience and one of my top tips was to tell Lydia (who is more of an introvert – and one of the most brilliant listeners I’ve met!) to develop her network and realise its potential. Networks are very powerful if we look after and nurture them well. It is worth remembering how important it is to develop these relationships over the months and years. Lots of these become personal contacts that can be developed both face to face and remotely and something worth noting well for introverts.
Planning effectively – and be resourceful – and aim for quality not quantity. You can ask for a delegate list and do your homework and prep on who is at an event so you know who you want to talk to and understand more about them. You can use great tools other than LinkedIn like Crystal – https://www.crystalknows.com – that focuses on understanding personality differences and communicating more effectively as a result. It’s also good fun to search for yourself too and see how you are viewed. You can also ask the organiser to introduce you to specific people you want to meet to. When I have done this in the past they have been delighted to this and has worked really well.
Listen. Actively. You are brilliant at it. We live in a crowded, noisy world. Introverts are naturally great listeners (extroverts sometimes less so!) and it is a wonderful skill to remember and be celebrated when you are networking. When we ask questions it isn’t often people have (or are given) the time, space and silence to really answer questions without the other person often feeling the need to add something mid sentence. Take time to pause and really listen to what you’ve just asked that person. Some of the best conversations happen when we do just that.
Be ready with questions. Have 3 or 4 questions ready that you have thought through to ask people that you meet so you ease yourself in to the conversation. These might be as simple as what they thought of the talk and/or what they took out of it. This will often be a precursor in to more about what they do and help you to feel more comfortable in asking this and the conversation starting to flow naturally.
Be confidence and engaging in what you do. Less is more. At a networking event when you are meeting someone for the first time tell them what you do powerfully and succinctly in a sentence – and leave your audience wanting to ask you more. Practise this before if you need to. It is often too easy to let oneself go in to all the detail of your business and you may feel you want to do this to fill time and space. But remember the person you are meeting doesn’t know it all and doesn’t need or want to as soon as they meet you. But over time many will so less is more at the beginning. And it’s a great opportunity to turn the tables over and ask them if it resonates and ask what they do.
Moving around the room effectively and through your prep. It can be very comfortable to spend the whole time with someone you meet (you may well be nodding now – don’t worry, we’ve all done it!) who feels easy to talk to and you feel very safe with. Be confident knowing that everyone in the room will be feeling a lot like you in approaching new people and striking up conversations for the first time. The raging extrovert feels it too – it might just be less obvious to you. And remember to use the organisers to be able to direct you to other people who want to meet if you have researched them through the delegate list.
Patricia Bacon is an expert business growth consultant and founder of Couplepreneurs a new global network for couples running businesses together. Find out more at www.couplepreneurs.co.uk