Industry Market Trends
How to Network (Even If You Hate Networking)
April 26, 2011
Are you an introvert? Does the thought of making small talk or "working the room" make you cringe? For people who dread networking, consider these guiding principles and techniques. Not all of us possess the ability to easily walk up to a stranger and start talking, especially about ourselves or our work. Even if we don't hate networking events, we may still feel inadequate at them. Yet introverts have the ability to turn their traits supposedly shortcomings into vital skills for building and maintaining mutually beneficial connections. "In my experience, people who proclaim to hate networking also believe they are not good at it," consultant Devora Zack writes in her 2010 book Networking for People Who Hate Networking. "In fact, the reverse is true. You have the raw materials to be a stellar networker." While extroverts generally are verbal, expansive and social, Zack says in her book, introverts tend to be reflective, focused and self-reliant. These characteristics lead to three key distinctions:
- Introverts think to talk, while extroverts talk to think;
- Introverts drill deep, while extroverts stretch wide; and
- Introverts energize alone, while extroverts energize with others.
- Preregister to mentally prepare and ensure a spot at important events;
- Plan your attire so that you look put-together but also feel comfortable;
- Volunteer to help, as networking-haters are more comfortable in a designated, structured role;
- Go with a pal and challenge each other to target others and report back; and
- Clarify what you want to achieve, arrive early and take a moment before you head in.
- Check out the nametag table early for names you recognize and those of people you want to meet;
- Linger by the food station, an excellent temporary networking space;
- Position yourself to scan the room for people you know and people who seem approachable;
- Talk to staff, as this not only is good form but also gives you something to do;
- Stand in lines (e.g., for food or beverages) for a good alternative to standing around alone;
- Make eye contact to convey interest in others;
- Make yourself approachable by maintaining a positive expression; and
- Note unusual accessories or unique styles of other networkers, as these invite conversation.
- Focus on others by asking thoughtful, genuine questions about them;
- Offer some tidbits about yourself (decide in advance what you are comfortable sharing with others);
- Remind yourself that the room is not focused on you and no one is keeping track of what you are doing;
- Schedule breaks to recharge, whether it's stepping outside for fresh air or checking your messages;
- Peruse collateral at the information table to learn about event hosts and glean conversation ideas;
- Write down new acquaintances' pertinent information on business cards to better recall details;
- Have a strategy for ending a conversation gracefully (e.g., "May I have your card?" or "I must make a call.");
- Know when to split, preferably when you have accomplished your networking goal; and
- Have a departure plan, as you are not at your best when you overstay your capacity to be "on."
- Because introverts often excel at the written word, writing personalized follow-up notes is an opportunity to capitalize on a natural strength; and
- After an encounter, be useful (and authentic) to your new acquaintance by sending an article or link relevant to your conversation to convey that you remember the person and what you talked about.