As an introvert, I am pretty happy being at home with a good book or eating lunch alone while catching up on e-mail. While “re-charge” time is important for introverts, I realized early in my career that I was missing out on professional opportunities because I wasn’t cultivating my network.
While walking into a large room full of strangers is still not my idea of a good time, there are strategies that help me to network comfortably and effectively in crowded events. Here are a few of my favorites:
- Use your strengths. Listening is one of the greatest gifts that you can give, and Introverts tend to be great listeners. When a person feels that someone is genuinely interested in them, there can be an instant connection. And, that is what networking is about – making connections and building relationships.
- Plan a transition moment. If attending a bustling event after a crazy day at work and a hectic commute, take a minute for yourself in your car or in the restroom before entering the event. These “mini re-charge” moments can be just enough to boost your energy so you can make the most of the networking opportunities.
- Take on a role. Introverts can feel very comfortable in large crowds when they have a role. For example, you can help people sign-in or hand out name tags. Having a role at a social event gives you an instant ice breaker and a reason to meet several new people.
- Have an entry and exit strategy. Breaking into a conversation or making a graceful exit from a discussion can be challenging. Groups of 3 are usually easier to join than groups of two. A simple “Can I join you?” is all it takes. When ready to move on, ask for a business card and let them know you enjoyed meeting them. Excusing yourself to refill your drink or use the restroom also works well.
- Ditch the pitch. While it is important to relay some key points about yourself, the “elevator pitch” is not a great way to begin a relationship. Be human. Curiosity and an interesting question – “What do you love best about your field?” – can go a long way in starting an engaging conversation.