As a natural introvert, you are most likely a little nervous about going to a “networking” event- an event specifically created to make it easier for everyone to make new connections.
That’s okay. I, Maria, the founder of Your Local Girl Gang, a community built specifically for connecting women, someone who’s been asked to be on multiple podcasts, speak on panels, and give talks to groups of varying sizes, am an introvert. I know how much it can suck when you want to put yourself out there, but it’s intimidating. Here are some of my tips to make the most of your networking event.
First, let me put this out there: Extroverts are awesome. There are some valuable things that we can learn from extroverts, but we do not need to attempt to be them. The most important thing you can do when making new connections to build your community is to focus on being yourself. So, do not try to pull off an extrovert persona if that’s not you. Do not feel like you need to be “bubbly.” Sharing just a few insightful, strong points about something you are confident in will make a better impression than trying to be bubbly. Go out of your comfort zone to introduce yourself to a few new people? Yes. Be fake? No.
Here are some tips to make the most of your networking event:
Be comfortable being alone where other people can see you.
You’re going to have to be willing to stand alone for a few minutes. Luckily, smartphones were created specifically for introverts who are sometimes left alone at parties (I assume.) But don’t use it as a crutch. No one wants to talk to someone who looks like they’re more interested in getting to the bottom of their instagram feed. Instead, get comfortable standing alone and just observing, with open body language.
Look for other people who are being wall flowers.
Most likely, those people are introverts too. Go introduce yourself.
Don’t rely on your friend.
It probably seems ideal to go with a friend to networking events, and it may be ideal for you. But make sure that you and your friend are not going to use each other as a crutch. Don’t spend your time that should be spent meeting new people just standing on the sidelines watching everyone else.
If you do choose to go with a friend, two things need to happen:
Make a pact with your friend ahead of time to spend time apart. Don’t be the girls who stand with one friend the whole time. You’ll get more out of it if you are willing to go up to another person or group and introduce yourself. Make sure you and your friend are on the same page about this. Then you can remind each other to branch out.
When you are standing with your friend, make it your mission to approach other people standing by themselves. Think about it- if you saw two people standing together and talking, would you walk into their conversation and attempt to introduce yourself? Probably not, because that’s intimidating and could be considered rude. So when you are talking with a friend, make an effort to bring someone new into the conversation. Don’t wait for them to come to you.
Have a “pick up line.”
Here are some ideas:
“Hi, my name is _____.”
“I love your top!” (Allow time for ensuing conversation about where the top is from.) “My name is _____, nice to meet you.”
It’s simple. We’re all there to meet new people. It’s a little awkward at first to introduce yourself to someone, but just do it. Just say “hi.” My favorite is the compliment. It starts you off on the right foot with everyone.
If you make a good connection at an event, that’s amazing. Congratulations! When you get a solid connection at a networking event, it can be tempting to stick with that person for the duration. Don’t do this. Instead, use that little win to boost your confidence to make another connection. Thank the person, tell them it was nice to meet them, exchange cards or phone numbers, and start over. That feeling that you got from making one good connection? Now imagine if you made two. Or five. Don’t stop at one because it’s in your comfort zone now. Push yourself out of your comfort zone. Set a goal ahead of time and don’t stop until you reach that goal.
Plan an approach that works for you.
Maybe you like events centered around certain activities that you’re interested in, like cycling, yoga, entrepreneurship, poetry, wine-tasting, or food. Maybe you prefer events of specific sizes, so you seek out more intimate gatherings. You can network anywhere. So choose a place or an activity you’re comfortable with, and attend those events. Bonus: you already have something in common with everyone else there. (Check out our Events page if you need some inspiration.)
If you got a business card, send them an email. If you didn’t exchange cards, add them on LinkedIn, and then message or email them. If you want to work together in some way, or you want their specific advice on something, maybe you even ask them to grab coffee or a drink with you. Please, please, don’t say you’d like to “pick their brain.” Be more specific about what you’d like to discuss, and come to the meeting prepared for that discussion. No one wants to small talk for 30 minutes, and no one has time for that. If you actually tell them ahead of time what you hope to get out of the meeting, it’ll be much more productive for both of you.
That’s it. Set a networking goal, push yourself out of your comfort zone (no crutches!), and be authentic. You’ll be a networking queen in no time.