Digital marketers, SEO experts, bloggers… Basically, all they don’t need face-to-face communication for efficient work because they can organize this process online. And yet, all they meet at niche events from time to time to listen to experts, learn business trends, share case studies, and… network.
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The last one becomes a nightmare for introverted specialists.
If you are among them, you understand the point I’m trying to bring home now. Introverts know the power of networking, – the art of building relationships with business and life partners for profits and overall wellness – but it’s physically uncomfortable for them to spend time among strangers.
Introverts’ mind is so structured that it consumes energy when communicating, while extravert’s one accumulates it. In her lecture at TED, writer Susan Cain explains this phenomenon:
“It’s different from being shy. Shyness is about fear of social judgment. Introversion is more about, how do you respond to stimulation, including social stimulation. So extroverts really crave large amounts of stimulation, whereas introverts feel at their most alive and their most switched-on and their most capable when they’re in quieter, more low-key environments.”
What’s positive about isolation? It’s perfect for creativity and hard work. What’s bad about it? Even a creative genius can’t sell his ideas alone.
Networking gives birth to new business projects, collaboration, and career growth. But how to get the most out of it if you are an introvert?
1) Take an unbiased look at your contacts
You may have 500+ LinkedIn connections or friends on your Facebook business page, but how many of them are close or at least meaningful for your professional network?
Analyze them for relevance:
- Are they mutually beneficial?
- To what niche do they belong?
- Can they help with your professional growth?
- Can you rely on those people?
- How long have you communicated with each contact in your list?
Don’t hurry up to delete ex-colleagues or ex-employees from your contact list, but pay attention to how often you work with them now. Be a strategic thinker: regulate your time and attention among most and least influential people.
In the article for Inc., Karl Stark and Bill Stewart recommend “creating a visual depiction of your social network” that would help to “identify ways to grow your business through relationships, referrals, and recommendations.” In short, such a map will help to see:
- People you need to engage with if you want to gain access to a broader network.
- Candidates for business collaboration.
- “Hidden gems” of your network, current and potential ones.
And remember: your network should be dynamic. Visit niche events, go to conferences and seminars, take part in workshops or webinars even if unsure of your competencies. It will allow you to broaden horizons, grow your contact list, and develop communication skills so you wouldn’t go into panic mode each time you hear the word “networking.”
2) Make networking work for you
Once you’ve analyzed your contact list, you’ll understand the power of networking and reasons you need it for business benefits and success. The next step is to change the negative image of this process in your introverted mind.
There are many strategies for introverts to behave with ease at business meetings and niche events, but all they boil down to this:
Take control over the situation. How?
- Find out the scope of the event and people who will be there.
- Make an appointment with those interesting to you.
- Find them on Facebook and start communication online: it will help to feel more comfortable during the meeting itself.
Prepare questions and topics of conversation beforehand.
Rehearse the story of self: make it informative but concise.
Give yourself a definite task for this event: it will allow you to concentrate and use the time.
During the event.
- Meet nose to nose. One-on-one meetings are best for effective networking.
- Go to events with a friend or get acquainted with someone who came alone too.
- Take breaks. Longstanding talks exhaust introverts, so you need time to recharge energies. Spend some time outside, catch a breath of fresh air, and relax.
- Put your strong points of introversion to good use: listen, share, and reflect on everything you hear. People love those listening to them, they trust such individuals and respect those speaking to the point.
“You gain trust by asking not what people can do for you…but what you can do for others. … In other words, the currency of real networking is not greed but generosity.” ~ Keith Ferrazzi, Never Eat Alone
After the event.
Stay in touch. It’s great if you were lucky to close at least one deal during the event. As for others, follow them up 2-3 days after. Email them, send a friend request on Facebook, or network on LinkedIn. Therefore you declare yourself a reliable person.
Online networking is a savior for introverted specialists, as they feel more comfortable and reassured when writing, not talking. And yet, it can hardly replace face-to-face contact. Don’t consider networking an ungracious duty but investment in your future. Introverts are great interlocutors and business partners; all you need to do is choose the best strategy of behavior – and you’ll win.