There are those in the business world for whom networking comes easy; naturally charismatic individuals who can find points of commonality and make connections with just about anyone, leveraging their interpersonal skills to create business opportunities. We aren't all like that, though. Networking isn't easy, and for most of us, especially those not naturally disposed to social interaction, measurable, replicable success is difficult to achieve. Networking isn't easy for introverts; it's an unfortunate fact that isn't often addressed in training videos and educational articles, but it's precisely that unfortunate, oft-ignored reality that we'll be discussing today. Here are our top 5 tips to help introverts improve their networking skills.
- Networking isn't just direct, face-to-face contact. Many people are of the misguided belief that ‘networking' refers solely to person to person interaction- meeting up for a coffee, getting together over a round of golf, attending a local business mixer. There's more to it than that, though. As much as networking is all of that, it's also sending Starbucks to a colleague's office, calling clients to share prospective business opportunities, and trawling online forums and Facebook groups to meet like-minded individuals. If you can't meet face to face on a regular basis, don't. Don't let your preconceived notions of what networking is and isn't limit the actions you take to help you or your business grow.
- The quality of contact is more important than quantity. While not always the most important factor, face-to-face contact in some form is essential to successful networking. Not being able to go out and meet people in your industry or have direct contact with clients all the time doesn't have to be a problem. There are business people who are in constant contact with clients and other professionals who are also terrible networkers. Networking is about quality, not quantity. If the face-to-face social interaction is hard for you or if it isn't your strong suit, limit it. So long as the contact you do have is mutually beneficial and leaves your peers feeling good about you and your business, there's nothing wrong with keeping that contact to a minimum.
- Preparation is key. Speaking to the same issue, if you're going to ensure that what direct contact you do have is as high in quality as possible, you need to prepare. Before going into a meeting with a client, a mixer with peers, or coffee with a colleague, make sure you know your stuff. Brush up on the relevant case file, double down on your knowledge of the industry and familiarize yourself with the major players. Being knowledgeable will not only assist you in making a good impression on your peers, but it will help you to feel more confident, more assured of yourself as you network as well, resulting in you making a better overall impression.
- Mood over matter. Your mental state is as important to your networking success as anything else. Investments your mood- working to ensure that you head into a networking opportunity relaxed, loose, and confident in your value prop- will yield as much of an increase in success as attention to any other area of your networking skillset.
- Decrease your anxiety, increase your success. Getting into that ideal relaxed, loose, and confident mindset, can be easier said than done. The anxiety that some introverted people feel during a social interaction- particularly high-risk social interaction like networking- can be incredibly difficult to overcome. There are proven methods for anxiety reduction like listening to the right pieces of music or practicing meditation and aromatherapy. Research these scientifically proven methods on your own, blend them with the things that work for you and put them into practice yourself in the best possible position for networking success.
Networking isn't thought of as something for introverts, but with some re-conceptualization and properly targeted investments in planning and preparation, even the least socially-inclined individuals in the business community will see marked improvement.