Being an introvert can be interesting. When you need solitude to re-charge the batteries, those who can only re-charge by being in a throng of people can be either amazed or appalled. One time my wife went to visit her mother and sisters while I stayed back to keep working (saving vacation days for another purpose). She called me a couple of days into the trip, and I had stayed home with what I thought was the flu. “I didn’t speak to another human being all day today,” I reported. “Which was a wonderful thing.” My extroverted wife was thunderstruck. “How do you do that?”
This makes being an entrepreneur even more interesting. When you run your own business, especially in the beginning, you have to find clients. You can hang out in Facebook groups all you want, but you must actually interact with people. So imagine this person who generally keeps quiet in a crowd, has challenges interacting with strangers, and who finds crowds more draining than energizing, going to a networking event. The stress level is quite high.
I’ve been to just enough of these things and have gleaned just enough insight from other successful business owners to figure out how to make the dreaded networking event much less dreadful. Here are 3 ways to have a successful networking time.
Don’t think too much. It’s easy to camp out on the things you don’t like about doing this. Fill your mind with more positive things. Take comfort that there are plenty of others that struggle in these environments with you. What do you like about the venue? Explore the food/beverage options, if applicable.
Cultivate relationships. It’s easy to throw business cards around and attempt to sell yourself. You’ll be far more successful when you build relationships. If the event has an ice breaker, throw yourself into it. You will find people you can relate to, and you can build conversations off of that.
Of course it’s still OK to hand out your business card. But when you do, make it because you have done step 2, and in cultivating that conversation, you found out what problem this person is facing, and you can say, “I can help with that.” We usually go to these things with the mindset of promoting ourselves. If you take the approach of, “I want to find out what someone needs, then offer solutions to that need” people will be appreciative and receptive.
How do you navigate the challenging waters of a networking event?