So you're at the most amazing networking event and all you can think of is getting home to a cozy drink and good book. But the point is, that even if you're an introvert, networking doesn't have to be the task that ends up in a deep, dark pit of its own, miles underneath the second to last most hated task in your biz.
Being an introvert doesn't necessarily mean that you're shy, it's just that spending too much of your time in large, jollity - enforced groups sucks the energy right out of you. You need to spend time alone recharging yourself if you're going to stay sane.
.AND (most importantly) it doesn't mean that you can't develop great networking skills and dare I suggest, even enjoy it in small doses. Here are my seven tips to help you turn networking into a part of your biz you do with ease.
1. Acknowledge that whilst networking might not be something you look forward to you can develop the skills to make the most of any networking event.
How do I know this with total certainty? As a child, I was painfully shy and yet somehow (WOW! how did that happen?!!) my first job after graduating was as a trainer running one day induction courses. When I started the job, I was often sick with fear, (literally). After lots of honing my skills, I started to love the buzz of presenting and even got to do small talk with the best of them! A few years later I married a man in the military so social chit chat at very formal events became another skill.
HINT: If I managed it, it's more than possible for you. It's a set of skills and we're not necessarily born perfect networkers but it's something you can improve ( you might feel like heading for the nearest isolated island afterwards for a break, but yes, it's possible for you).
2. Examine any "should" mentality that's lurking at the back of your mind.
Track it down and throw it out if it's not helping you.There's no "strike you down with lightening" rule that says networking has to involve you wowing, entertaining and inspiring a large group of people all at once. Networking, like building any close relationship involves two people gradually getting to know one another so work with one person at a time. Get to know them, find your ground of common interest, share some of what you do, make a connection, take your time. And then move onto the next person for your next conversation. You decide how many people you want to connect with and go for quality rather than quantity. You're in total control of your networking style and how you want to do it that suits you best.
3. Use your wonderful, introvert skills.
The most effective networkers are not necessarily the ones who loudly proclaim their expertise and their success stories. People like to be heard. And this my dear introvert is where you come in. Obviously you need to make sure you're comfortable talking about your own business but keeping the focus on the other person can work wonderfully. Use your finely honed listening skills, ask questions, show an interest in the other person, make them feel listened to.
"I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel"
4. Networking is all about building relationships and the best ones take time. It's not a "make a great impression immediately or all hope is lost" game. Making the effort to get in touch after you've met someone for the first time and then keeping that connection going, thoughtfully and appropriately, this is what we're so good at. So look at it as your opportunity to develop meaningful, long-term connections.
5. It's all in the body language.
Amy Cuddy, the American social psychologist has done some wonderful research on the power of the stance. So grab yourself somewhere private and do the wonder woman stance - feet hip width apart, hands on hips, stand tall and look up. Just a couple minutes of this can change your hormone balance triggering more of the testosterone (makes us feel more assertive and more able to tackle a networking event and less cortisol ( makes us worry). How you use your body deeply effects your mind so if you're feeling nervous, concentrate on standing tall and giving eye contact. It's a feedback loop so people will assume you're confident, treat you as such and you'll start feeling more confident pretty darn quickly.
6.There are many, many ways to network.
Thank goodness for social media because now us introverts have got another way to network that plays to our advantage. Networking is not just about face to face interaction but it's now possible to make powerful, virtual connections.
So how many facebook groups are you a part of, what other social media platforms do you belong to? Treat them all as an opportunity to network whether that's with potential clients or colleagues because some of your most powerful connections may live half a world away. Just because we may never meet someone face to face doesn't mean we're not networking.
7. And finally...
Put looking after yourself and self care at the top of your list . If you're out networking in person give yourself plenty of time to recharge. Decide how many people you would like to meet per month or how many events you're going to attend and then take action knowing that once you've done this you can relax and reward yourself doing something you enjoy.