Networking for Introverts

I am a huge fan of Ted Talks for personal development and one of these Ted Talks changed my perspective on people.  It was Susan Cain’s talk on The Power of Introverts.

Susan Cain - The Power of Introverts care of TED
Susan Cain – The Power of Introverts via TED

Prior to my coming across this video, I couldn’t understand the apprehensions some business owners expressed in taking the stage to deliver a talk.  It didn’t make sense to me why some business owners explained that after going to a networking event, they would go home for the rest of the day in order to recharge.  For me, some of my most productive days might have involved a couple of networking events; a couple of one to one meetings or phonecalls, with maybe a skype chat in the evening to an overseas client.  But then as I watched this video, I finally understood what it meant to be an introvert.  How they are different to extroverts and how it is perfectly okay to be an introvert or extrovert or both.

I mentioned in another post how my branding mistake suddenly led to see images of a template I chose for my first business card everywhere, and I had a similar experience after watching this Ted Talk, as I realised just how many of my friends and my sister as it turned out, were introverts.  With my new found knowledge of  introverts, I did a bit of research, talked to several introverted business owners and from our conversations, I manage to compile the following list of tips introverts could use in order to cope with the daunting prospect of networking.

  1. Find a networking group that works for you.  Try finding a networking event that attracts smaller numbers.  Networking is not about quantity but quality.  Networking should be less about collecting as many business cards as you can, and more about how you can help others.  If you are unsure of what networking groups there are around you, here are a few suggestions that may help.
  2. Review the attendee list.  With many networking events, especially with Facebook Events, and organisations such as Eventbrite and Meetup, it is possible to see who is attending the event beforehand.  It enables business owners to be productive with their time as they can see which business owners are attending prior to the event.  Take a look at their profile, their website and social media credentials and then make a list of who you wish to talk to.
  3. Don’t work the whole crowd.  It’s scary enough having to walk into a room full of strangers without putting undue pressure on oneself to try and talk to everyone.  It just isn’t possible and in fact, us extroverts/ambiverts wouldn’t attempt to talk to everybody either.   Set a realistic goal for yourself to talk to maybe one or two individuals, and spend some time mayking that connection and having a qualiTEA conversation.
  4. Find a mindful extrovert to go with. Extroverts thrive in social situations especially networking events and if you find the right extrovert to go with, the mindful extrovert will introduce you to a circle of business owners, and ensure you get an opportuniTEA to introduce yourself and your business.  A mindful extrovert will ask questions in order to draw out more information from you that you can relay to the group of business owners.  A mindful extrovert may even keep an eye out for you for the duration of the networking event.  We do exist, I promise you 🙂
  5. Don’t change.  You are who you are and you should embrace it!  Introverts have a reputation for being great listeners.  You are thoughtful, you are observant and have a keen eye for detail.  Use this to your advantage when networking.  These are key traits to have if you want to excel in networking to help others which will in turn help you and your business in the long run.  Remember the lessons that Dale Carnegie taught us.

    How to Win Friends and Influence People
    How to Win Friends and Influence People – Infographic by Hubspot
  6. Remember your why.  Remember your goals.  Think about your passion and your business.  When you remember why you are in business and why you are in the room of strangers, it will make it easier to strike up a conversation with someone.  We are all in the same room with the aim to network and find contacts and connections.  The start of the conversation will probably start in the same way: ‘What is your name / What is it that you do’ and if you remember your why, these questions should be easy to answer.   Following the introductions, try asking open ended questions to keep the conversation going.
  7. Find the wallflower in the room.  This is probably the most challenging for introverts but stay with me.  As an ambivert, I tend to walk to the wallflower who looks up nervously from their phone hoping to find the courage to speak to someone.  I hope that by walking to that individual I can learn more about that person and think about ways in which I could help them.  Introverts can do this too. They know that introverts the world over are in the same scary networking predicament. It just takes one introvert to take that brave step.  Take a deep breathe, smile, walk over to an individual and say hello.  Believe me the wallflower in the room will really appreciate what you did and you will find a rewarding conversation will ensue.
  8. Follow Up.  Once you have reached your desired goal and met everybody that you wanted to meet, go home, take that well deserved rest and don’t forget to follow up once you are fully recharged.   If the conversations you held involved offering some assistance to the other person e.g. sending them an article, giving them a contact, or link to a website, whatever it was don’t forget to honour your word and send them the details.  Ask them for a business card and write a little note to yourself to remind yourself why you were going to follow up; and if there was no call of action following the conversation, just a simple thank you email will do wonders to help you build your network.

Now if all of this sounds too daunting, don’t worry.  There are a couple of other steps introverts can do to help them along the way and when the time is right, you could revisit this post and start your relationship building journey.

  1. Find a Toastmasters group.  When I was networking in London, I was asked to accompany one of my friends to a meeting.  My friend knew she would have to network for her business and the thought of networking filled her with dread.  She thought that by going to Toastmasters, it may give her the confidence to speak to others.  I went along to support my friend and when I turned up, the amount of support the organisers and attendees gave to each other filled me with immense joy.  One of the most memorable moments that night was when three friends, announced that they had all had a stammer but they made a pact to come to Toastmasters to increase their confidence, so that one day they could walk into a party and strike up a conversation with a stranger.  The meetings are very well structured and the organisers are extremely welcoming to every attendee.  Their aim is to help you achieve your goal: whether it is to turn up to a party; prepare for that best man speech; networking for business or any other goal you may have.  Everybody in the meeting is in the same boat and everybody wants to reach that goal of having the confidence to speak in public in whatever capacity.  Why not find your local group and find out how they can help you?
  2. Try Networking online.  A great resource for introverts is to use social media to find business owners to talk to and connect with.  I wrote a blog post on how to get the best out of a Facebook Group and this is probably a great place to start, in order to start networking.  Like a post, comment on a post and share useful articles.  These are a great way to start networking in the comfort of your own home (or office).  You can look at member’s Facebook profiles, look at their Facebook pages and their website and social media credentials and when the time is right, you could send them a Facebook message to start a conversation with them.

So that’s my 8 (plus 2 bonus) tips on how introverts can network effectively but I would love to hear from you.  As an introvert, what other tips do you have to help others to network effectively?  I would love to see your comments below.  Thanks for listening.

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Where to find Networking Groups

I was really fortunate to have a friend to take me to my first networking event when I was in London and at my first networking event, I met other networking event organisers who invited me to their meetings and that’s how it snowballed.  When I moved to Australia though, I didn’t know a single person prior to going.  Here’s what I did to try and find networking groups.

  1. I asked.  It was a long shot, but I thought I’d give it a go.  Does anybody know anybody in Brisbane I asked?  Not a sausage, but after going to several networking events, I did eventually receive the name of somebody who had just moved to Sydney.  I was really lucky though because I knew that I would be in Sydney for a week before moving to Brisbane.  Why not give her a holler?  I felt like the luckiest gal on the planet because I was put in touch with the amazing Suzy Jacobs from She Business fame.
  2. Twitter.  I decided to take full advantage of my week in Sydney to try and meet people other than the wonderful Suzy.   I found several business owners on Twitter and struck up a conversation with them, and asked if I could meet them on a certain date/time.  From memory, I think I managed to set up 7 meetings in 5 days with my first meeting on the day of arriving in Sydney from London.  Yes I was jet lagged after a 24 hour flight, but with that meeting came further business opportunities later down the track including a couple of tea speaking gigs, and an opportuniTEA to showcase my tea in front of 50 business owners.
  3. Google.  After my week in Sydney, I did a Google Search to find networking events in Brisbane to see what would come up.  Google led me to some great networking events including Chambers of Commerce, Rotary Clubs, BNI groups and other local networking events organised by local business owners.
  4. Word of Mouth.   When I went onto Twitter to find business owners in Brisbane, I was extremely fortunate that I met the lovely Linda from Journey Jottings fame on Twitter and invited her to a cup of tea at the first tea house I found in Brisbane.  We met face to face, had a really pleasant conversation and Linda also gave me suggestions on Brisbane based networking events.
    Linda Fairbairn aka @journeyjottings
    Linda Fairbairn aka @journeyjottings

    At each networking event I attended, other networking event organisers attended to entice business owners to go to their networking events.  I very quickly found myself inundated with several networking events to attend.  Attending the first few networking events, led me to my first interview about Twitter, led me to my first Chinese Gong Fu Tea Ceremony event.  Helped me to find someone to design my business card and led me to a great photographer.  I found opportuniTEAs to talk about tea and to sell my tea and teawares.  Networking for the first few months in a city I didn’t know led me to some amazing prospects and future collaborations.

    My First Gong Fu Tea Ceremonial Event in Brisbane
           My First Brisbane Gong Fu Tea Ceremony
  5. Meetup.com.  Meetup is an online social networking website that encourages people to organise and/or participate in face to face meetings around the world.  I used this website both for business to find networking events and business events to attend.  I also used Meetup for personal use too. Moving to a new city in a new country meant that I had to find a way to meet new friends.  I found a meetup group that loves Karaoke (I LOVE Karaoke), Films (I love films) and Friday Night drinkypoos (I like to gain my daily source of antioxidants by various means other than tea 😉 )
  6. Business Magazines. As I attended networking events, I sometimes found business magazines at venues where networking events were held.  Leafing through the magazines and reading interviews of successful business folk and useful articles about various aspects of business, there were advertisements of local networking groups to attend to.

If you have any other suggestions of where to find networking groups, please share them in the comments below.  I’d love to hear from  you.