Coachee: Networking isn’t my thing Rachel, I’m an introvert you see.
Coach (me): I see, when you say networking, what do you mean?
Coachee: You know, going to big events full of people I don’t know – big events are noisy. If I talk to people I don’t know I have to make inconsequential small talk – it’s so daunting!
I could go on! Stereotypical networking as described above is dominated by extroverts (or at least feels that way). However, around a third to a half of the UK population are more introvert than extrovert. Now, introversion doesn’t mean shy or awkward, in fact, many introverts really enjoy socialising but they find too much exhausting and recharge by spending time alone. Conversely extroverts get their energy from their time spent with others.
Introverts can be highly effective networkers particularly if they set up their activity to suit their strengths. For instance, many introverts are exceptional listeners – important to authenticity and handy when trying to pick up snippets of useful information. Other common traits of introverts are tenacity and the tendency to prepare – again, important – to the follow up and consideration of the right approach to events and relationship building.
Here are a few ways to start to enjoy (or at least get more out of) networking if you are more of an introvert than extrovert:
- Do it your way – pick (or even better, create) events of genuine interest where you’re more likely to start or continue to build genuine connections.
- Don’t overdo it – it could be more fruitful to attend a few smaller events that interest you and are likely to be attended by the right people, than overwhelm your senses with everything and achieve nothing.
- When you do go to larger events, arrive early – it’ll be easier to talk to people when there are fewer people in the room than when it looks like someone else’s school reunion.
- Be curious – it’s not all about talking – ask questions – avoid turning a conversation into an interrogation but show genuine interest in others and their organisations.
- Build in some downtime between conversations and when you’ve had enough, leave.
- Having spent the time making new contacts, be sure to follow up.
- Networking also includes building your existing client and contact relationships so spend time on those too.
- If you report to an extrovert, discuss this with them. Explain your preferences and approach, agree expectations and ask to be judged on results not method.
Networking is just connecting with others – it is not selling and there are no rules that say it must be hard-work, dull, done at big events or involve talking to lots of people you don’t know.
I sit smack bang in the middle of the spectrum of introvert and extrovert (an ambivert apparently) and work as an adviser to organisations and coach to individuals who want to improve the effectiveness of their networking and wider business development strategy and activities. If you would like to discuss how I could support you please get in touch..