Networking For Introverts: Getting Out of Wallflower Mode
- Posted by Alaia Williams
- On November 21, 2013
- networking, networking for introverts, professional networking
I get it. The reason you got into programming, accounting, or tending cacti was because you’re extremely shy and wanted to avoid people. While hiding behind your career and being a wallflower worked great when you were at a big company, it won’t do while you’re in business for yourself. You have to market your services and the only way to do that is to meet people and network.
Start small. Start with a small word of interaction: say “hi” to people you meet. When you shop for groceries, visit the post office, or buy office supplies, make it your goal to greet at least one or more strangers. Increase the number as you become more comfortable. You only have to say “hi,” or “hello” or “good morning/afternoon.” Once you say that, consider your goal met.
Ask open-ended questions. An easy way to get a conversation started and to have the other person do the work is to ask an open-ended question. This is any query that doesn’t require a one-word or yes-no answer, and usually starts with “how” or “why.” Develop several such questions that you can use with anyone. For example: “How did you get started?,” “Why do you like to do this?,” or “What do you think of …” and your favorite topic.
Come up with a spiel. People you meet are naturally going to want to find out about you. Come up with a short speech that gives them that information. Start with something like “Hello, I’m so-and-so” and then talk about your favorite activity or hobby. Then come up with a one-minute description of your business. If the other person seems interested in your work, continue to talk about it for longer. Otherwise, talk about your other favorite hobbies or ask them an open-ended question.
Stand by the food. Networking events will generally have a table with food, beverages, business cards, brochures, or other items to attract groups of people. Stand by it and talk to people about what’s there. Pretend it’s a party at your home and you’re introducing newcomers to what’s happening. This gives you a natural topic of conversation and will help you focus on helping other people out and not on your own shyness.
Networking for introverts? No problem! If you are interested in more tips on networking or finding the right places to network, shoot me a note, I’d love to help.