As an introvert the word networking can be rather anxiety inducing. A room of people you don’t know, expectations to look and sound successful with a well polished, slick 60 second elevator pitch on exactly what your business does. Maybe it’s even held in a corporate board room to a strict timetable. All of the above leaves this particular introvert diving back under the duvet and vowing to stick with online networking via social media! After setting up my own (introvert friendly) networking group, CWS Creatives, where you definitely won’t feel under pressure to talk in front of the whole group (phew) I’ve been honing my networking skills and gathering lots of tips and ways to get the most out of networking without feeling the need to take on a whole new extroverted, suit clad persona.
Top tips on networking when you’re an introvert
Prepare before you go
Find out about how the networking meeting is run, for example, is it a formal meeting, is it one where you need to have a 60 second pitch prepared, what kind of businesses will be there. I find that knowing more about what to expect helps me mentally prepare.
Go with a friend/colleague
Is there someone there that you already know? Can you pair up with someone and go along to the first event together? It’s always nice knowing there will be someone you can chat to at the start while you gain confidence.
Find a group that suits you
Different events are suited to different styles of business, for example, a business breakfast packed with accountants, solicitors and estate agents may not be the best fit if you run flower arranging workshops. You might want to find a group or meeting that has more complimentary businesses that can open up new clients and provide support.
Do a lot online!
Make those connections virtually before moving into ‘real life’. You can even find events where people you’ve networked with online go along to. Do try and get out from behind your computer though, it’s easy to hide and get out of the habit of meeting ‘in real life’ especially if you work alone.
Think about why you’re going to a meeting
Have some goals or ideas of what you’d like from the meeting before you go. An example of this would be, maybe you’re a online retailer that wants some professional product shots doing or you want some digital marketing help. Keep an eye or ear out for professionals that could help your business. Maybe you are looking for client referrals to build up your wellbeing coaching business, think about complimentary business that might have clients who would be a good fit for you too.
When you’re at an event or meeting remember to breathe
Ok, I’m exaggerating a little here, but you know what I mean. If you’re feeling anxious, take some deep breaths and talk yourself round. You won’t be the only one feeling nervous, why not look out for someone else that seems new or a little nervous, they are most likely desperate for someone to start up a conversation.
Introduce yourself to the person hosting the event
Ask if they can introduce you to someone in a specific area you’re looking for information about or a for a connection in.
Wear something that you feel confident and comfortable in
You want to feel confident when you walk through the doors into a new environment, be sure to wear something that helps with that. Dress for your day rather that the way you think you should. If you wear an outfit that’s new or more formal than you’d usually wear it might make you feel self conscious. On the other hand, a new outfit might bring a new confidence – again it comes down to wearing something that’s ‘you’.
Don’t forget your business cards!
There is no point spending time making valuable connections only to leave with people not being able to easily get in touch with you.
Most of all, for the sake of your whole well being don’t put yourself through terrible networking events because you feel you *have* to. If a particular style of meeting doesn’t suit you after a couple of trys then move on to another one.
There we have it my top tips for networking as an introvert.
Have you got any tips to add?
If you’d like to know more about what goes on at the CWS Creatives Meet Up (networking events) then have a read of this – What actually happens at a Coffee Work Sleep Creatives Meet Up?
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(photos taken by Liesa Jane Photography at a recent CWS Creatives Meet Up event)