It may go against conventional thought, but introverts make great business leaders. Their ability to internalize and process information, their steady personalities, and their humility help them take the well-measured approach that a business needs to prosper in the long run.
One thing that almost all introverted entrepreneurs struggle with, though, is networking. Going to an event full of strangers and making small talk for hours isn’t their idea of a good time.
While it might be a challenge, connecting with others is necessary to help your small business grow. That’s why we compiled this guide to networking for introverts. Read on to learn how to get past your discomfort and make the best of your next business networking event.
Reframe Your Self-Talk
There’s nothing wrong with being a true introvert. Even so, remember that there’s power in the language you use to describe yourself. Your “self-as-story“, the internal narrative you have about your personality, can actually influence how you respond to different situations.
Does your internal dialogue often go something like this? “I’m an introverted businessman, I hate social situations, and I’m terrible at talking to strangers. I’ll never be able to network effectively.”
If so, try adjusting your self-talk to something more open-ended and less conclusive. “Which of my skills will help me succeed at this event? My ability to listen, my bright smile, and my openness to learn new things.”
When you reframe your self-talk from negative to positive, you may find that it’s easier to picture yourself networking (and thus easier to do the real thing).
Practice Your Elevator Pitch
When someone asks you “so what do you do?”, do you find yourself hemming and hawing while you try to come up with an answer? Instead of grasping for words in the moment, it’s helpful to refine and practice your elevator pitch well in advance.
Take time to break down the exact message you’d like to convey. Write out 2-3 sentences that take no more than 30 seconds to say (often around 80 words). Within these 80 words, be sure to clearly state your unique selling position—what you do, what makes it different from other companies, and why it’s valuable.
After you’re satisfied with the result, practice giving this pitch until it’s second nature. Whether you use flashcards, say it to yourself in the mirror, or practice with your pets, repetition is the key to feeling comfortable. Even if you don’t find yourself riding in an elevator with the CEO of a major corporation, having this mini-speech ready to go will make it simple to start a networking conversation.
Start with a Name and a Handshake
Networking for business always starts with making a good first impression. There are three components to this: a bright smile, a firm handshake, and a clear introduction. Exchange names, titles, and business cards early on in the conversation so neither of you gets pulled away before you get a chance.
Even when you’re attending a virtual networking event where a handshake is impossible, first introductions are still important. Be sure to give people your full attention when they’re speaking, pay attention to your body language, and repeat their name back to them to ensure you have it correct.
After introductions are complete, be sure to use the other person’s name throughout the conversation. This establishes a more personal connection and builds your memory as well.
Focus on Others in Conversations
An introvert’s greatest networking weakness, a preference for listening over speaking, is also one of their greatest strengths. Career expos and other networking events are full of professionals trying to be heard over the crowd. When you take the time to focus on the other party instead of talking over them, they’ll leave with a positive impression of the interaction and are more likely to contact you in the future.
Before you head to the event, memorize a list of open-ended questions and conversation starters that you can whip out when the flow stagnates. These could include:
- What kind of work do you do, and what business functions are you directly involved in?
- Are you involved in any philanthropic/community initiatives?
- Where do you hope to bring your business in the next year/5 years/10 years?
- How can I/my business/my product help you meet your goals?
- Who else do you know of that I should speak with at this event?
Once you’ve heard them out, offer a compliment on their product or strategy before you launch into your next question. Not only will they leave the interaction feeling good about themselves, but it may also help them launch into another topic. This plays on your strengths (listening and processing information) and saves you from being forced to drive the conversation.
Ask to Connect Online
Always be sure to ask for someone’s social media handles or Introducing Me profile before the conversation is over. While many entrepreneurs still hand out business cards with their contact info, the real connection happens over WiFi.
Today’s online business platforms are some of the best places to practice referral networking—sometimes even better than in-person events. Why? Because you don’t have to be in the same room, the same state, or even the same country to connect with like-minded individuals.
Once you connect with someone at an event, you gain access to their entire online network, and they gain access to yours. This is excellent for introverts because it means you can reach out in a personal way without having to make a dreaded phone call.
Painless Networking for Introverts Is Possible
Networking for introverts doesn’t need to feel like pulling teeth. While you may still not be excited about chatting with strangers, following the advice in this guide will help you make the most of the opportunity.
Do you have a professional networking page to direct people to? If not, it’s time to set one up on Introducing Me, the best place to connect with business groups and entrepreneurs in your industry. Sign up today to create your profile, link up with other like-minded professionals, and watch your network grow.