I finally did it! After an hour of apprehension, I clicked the “Going” button to a networking event invite. Ok, I got that part over with. I would spend the next week preparing my mind and my nerves to endure 90 minutes of small talk, being bombarded with business cards, and wondering how and if I will remember everyone’s name I encounter.
The life of an INTROVERT! I am a self-proclaimed introvert. I didn’t know that my desire to sit in a corner and “people-watch,” the anxiety I felt before any event where I didn’t know anyone, and the undeniable exhaustion I felt after being around a lot of people for an extended period of time was due to my low energy state. I learned this about myself after going to counseling. Introverts are not “shy” people as most typically think. To be quite honest, I am nowhere near shy! I am extremely vocal, charismatic, jovial, and social. But I have some limits to my sociability; a couple being engaging in shallow superficial conversations, attempting to engage with others when the room is loud (from music or others talking), and ultimately the length of time I socialize. Introverts are individuals who gain energy when they are alone and are drained when overly stimulated by their environments. Imagine this: Entering a networking event on a full tank of energy and leaving the even on an empty tank at the end. That’s what it’s like being an introvert.
As an entrepreneur, speaker, and non-profit president it behooves me to attend networking events. And although it is a psychological struggle, it is one of the many life-lines to my success. So, how do I master attending multiple networking events each week without making myself go berserk?
Here are some strategies I use to help me make the most of my networking opportunities while preserving my energy.
Select events that align with your purpose, industry, or interest
I find that if I go to an event that is focused on something, I am passionate about, I am more likely to strike up meaningful conversations with like-minded people. The connection will have depth to it, and I won’t feel drained by speaking to someone about something I have no interest in (and having to act interested!)
Give myself alone time before an event to store up my energy
I try my best to make time to be by myself before I attend a networking event. This means clearing my mind of the days stressors or taking a nap (Yup! Great energy restoring activity).
Wait for them to come to me!
I learned that I don’t have to force myself to greet people. I felt my efforts were disingenuous and probably appeared feign. If I am alone at an event and I don’t know anyone, I will sit/stand in a conspicuous space, and show welcoming body language like smiling. In no time, I find people will individually flock to me, which takes the pressure off of me to engage.
Invite a friend!
Attending an event with a friend makes it easier to engage in conversations because there is authenticity, familiarity, and genuineness. Plus, if the event is boring, I have the company of my friend.
Grab, Give, Go (GGG)
Although I don’t like this form of networking (because there’s no deep connection), sometimes it is necessary for my energy conservation. I will swoop the room, giving out cards, grabbing others cards, and then I dip! Again, small talk drains me. But if I can swoon through the room really quickly and make as many contacts as possible, I can leave right afterwards, while maintaining at least a quarter tank of energy!
Make connections afterwards
The beauty of the GGG method is I have many contacts I can follow up with AFTER the event on a ONE-ON-ONE basis. Then, I get to choose the optimal space or mode of communication, and get a chance to know the person.
Networking is a very rewarding and exciting feet. You don’t have to let your introversion get the best of you! I didn’t!