Posted on Thursday, 26 June 2014 in Business Skills

Networking for introverts

Being successful in business largely depends on your ability to maximise your strengths. In the competitive world of entrepreneurs and small businesses, this means getting out there and selling yourself, being seen and making the right connections. If the very of thought of networking makes you cringe, help is at hand. In an article posted on Entrepreneur.com, Jacqueline Whitmore provides tips that make networking easy for anyone, and  shows that there is more than one path to success. 

 

“Visibility is a natural part of networking,” says Whitmore. “However, this doesn’t mean that you need to be the centre of attention.” If you’re more introverted, it’s a good idea to manage your expectations, so if networking events make you nervous – don’t set yourself impossible targets. You don’t need to make 20 contacts and have the entire room roaring with laughter at your witty repartee; one quality conversation is worth more than 20 superficial ones. 

 

Preparation makes all the difference. Think of some ice-breakers you could use to start conversation. Open ended questions make it easier to keep the conversation going. People love to talk about themselves, so ask them about their businesses, organisations and hobbies. 

 

If you decide prior to an event how long you plan on being there, it makes the commitment finite and far less intimidating. Set a time limit of at least 20 minutes – enough time to get your name tag, have a drink and make conversation with one new person. You’re likely to surprise yourself by staying longer than you initially planned. 

 

Ask for an introduction. If there is someone at an event that you would particularly like to meet, see if you share a connection in common and ask them to introduce you. LinkedIn proves useful in this regard. If this doesn’t work, you can ask the host of the event to make the introduction for you – it’s often easier to meet someone through someone else, than approaching them out of the blue. 

 

Practice your listening skills. The fact that you’re more of an introvert probably means that you’re naturally a more engaged listener. It’s a talent that will really make you stand out in a crowd, as most people are generally better at talking than they are at listening. 

 

At the same time, it’s a good idea to challenge yourself to open up more. Share your own personal stories - if you keep asking others questions whilst revealing nothing about yourself, the conversation begins to feel more like an interrogation. Being an active participant in a conversation makes it flow so much better. 

 

Take it a step at a time. The more you prepare and practice, the more comfortable you will become in social situations and the better you will be at sharing your true personality. Remember, everyday you’ll have more opportunities to network and make business contacts – so make the most of them. 

 

Jacqueline Whitmore is the author of Poised for Success: Mastering the Four Qualities that Distinguish Outstanding Professionals and Business Class: Etiquette Essentials for Success at Work. 

 

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