You don't have to be outgoing to be good at networking.
By Jessica Baker (Founder & CEO, Aligned Signs and COO, Growth Circle)
This post originally appeared on Young Entrepreneur Council.
Have you felt awkward and self-conscious in the company of strangers? Do you dread going to parties where you do not know anyone? Is networking difficult for you? If you are an introvert who likes to be in your own private space, then the answer to the above questions is probably yes. That was certainly my experience. As the CEO of my company, Aligned Signs, I knew networking was of the utmost importance to get my company on the map. But I frequently found it difficult to hit my stride.
In current times, networks matter. Social and professional pressures do drive introverts towards opening up and communicating with people more than they might ideally prefer. When among people, many introverts wish they had the energy levels and skills to excel in these situations.
So are there ways to cope better? Yes, there are. In fact, with some effort and the following smart tips, it will be easy for you to start making better connections, even with people you don’t know much about. Here are some of the strategies I discovered to network like a pro.
Visualize and Make a Plan
See yourself at the event. Chart out a few simple goals. It could be as concrete as “I will get two phone numbers tonight and follow up next week” or as simple as “I will walk up to six new people and talk for two minutes.” Make plans about what you will talk about, the questions you will ask, and the answers you will give. After four or five events, the preparation will be like second nature to you and things will become easier.
This is important. As an introvert, you are more likely to be overwhelmed when you reach an event and find that everyone is already deep in conversation or having a good time and you have nowhere to go! To counter this, show up 20 minutes before and introduce yourself to a couple of the early attendees. A few of them will surely be without company. Not only are you more likely to get favorable responses, it will also likely increase your involvement for the rest of the event.
Join a Queue
It seems a little odd, but if you find yourself part of the line to the restroom, food counter or name tag collection, there are probably two people near you at all times. Striking up conversation about the queue is an easy way to begin conversation.
Break It Up
Reward yourself with breaks after every connection. Make a point to make notes on the business cards that you get. This will allow for better memory and follow up. Have a drink or enjoy your food while you unwind from your interactions.
Do a Quick Follow-Up
If you do not follow up, there really is no point. Do it early so the information you just learned is top of mind. Follow up first with people with whom you felt a better vibe.
Armed with these tips, even the timidest of introverts might find it a little easier to interact at an upcoming party or networking event. Try them out — you may just uncover a deeper conversation with an attendee and meet your next mentor or business partner.
About the guest blogger: Jessica M. Baker is the Founder and CEO of Aligned Signs, the only patented self-discovery and relationship tool of its kind. Ms. Baker fuels her business ventures with expertise gained from nine years of experience in finance, business analysis, client management and research. Follow her on Twitter at @alignedsigns.