Confession: As an introvert, I used to hate networking. I came up with any and every excuse to get out of networking events, no matter what they were.
But when I started my own business, I knew networking was a skill I needed to learn, introvert or not.
So I forced myself to try the typical “networking” events — you know: people in suits, watered down cocktails, name tags, and small talk.
As an introvert, I always felt like networking was all lip service and a way to spit out your sales pitch in the fastest way possible. (Blech.)
I left these “typical” events feeling either like a fish out of water or like fresh meat being preyed upon by slick salespeople.
I hated it. I stopped doing it. Then I changed my strategy.
To take a cue from Marie Kondo, I signed up only for things that “sparked joy”.
I attended only things I wanted to go to. And they took a different look: book clubs, yoga retreats, conferences for women.
Instead of trying to talk to as many people as possible (which always felt like what I “should” do), my goal was to simply connect with one or two people on a deeper level.
(As a side note, I discovered lot of people who want to connect on a deeper level — other introverts!)
When I changed my approach, my feelings changed.
Once I was able to give myself permission to network connect in the way I wanted, everything changed.
I enjoyed myself. I met quality people. I returned from the event able to cultivate friendships and relationships that have helped me in my life and business.
I may never love networking and that’s ok.
You may never love it, either.
But I am guessing you can find things you love. Places where you connect with like-minded people. Events where you’re more likely to show up authentically and willing to engage on a deeper level.
5 steps to enjoy networking, even as an introvert
1. Reset your expectations. Whatever you choose to attend, know WHY you are attending and what you hope to get out of it. Reframe your expectations. Instead of putting pressure on yourself to meet as many people as possible, decide what’s most important to you.
2. Use your natural gifts. If you’re an introvert, you might not enjoy large groups or noise or flitting around the crowd. Don’t do it! Embrace your natural skill and desire for deep connection and seek out people who are more interested in having 1:1 conversations.
3. Choose what sparks joy. Seek out events you like, whether they’re business-related or not. You’re more likely to be open for connection when you feel good about what you’re attending! Follow the places and the people that feel good.
4. Follow up with strong connections. Most relationships never get started because no one follows up. Reach out to the people you felt a strong connection with. Approach the follow-up as an opportunity to learn more about the person you met and see what connections might develop.
5. Be a resource! Your follow-up conversation isn’t a sales consult– unless that’s what the person on the other end wants. Instead, be helpful. People remember those who offer value, whether it’s a recommendation, resource, or even just your time.
Now you’re probably asking, “OK, but how do these people turn to clients?”
Here’s the thing. Not everyone is meant to be your client.
Some are meant to be friends, acquaintances, referral partners, and yes, some clients.
But you won’t get know until you are willing to explore the possibilities and be open for a connection no matter what form it takes.
(Please) don’t do these things:
- Don’t treat all people like they’re your potential clients. (They’re not!)
- Don’t put on a facade.
- Don’t add someone to your email list just because they gave you their business card. (It’s illegal!)
Last, don’t take yourself too seriously! Like everything in business, this is an experiment. Some things you’ll love, and some you’ll hate. What matters is what you learn and how you choose to move forward.
I’d love to hear from you. What tips have worked for you in networking? Share in the comments!