Exhibiting and networking at an event isn’t a walk in the park, especially if you’re an introvert.
We know, you’ve spent all day at the event booth and now it’s time to head on over to the exhibitor networking function — you’re exhausted but you know you can’t afford to miss the opportunity. Despite your overwhelming exhaustion you know if you’re not networking you’re missing out on expanding your network, sales opportunities and learning experiences.
To help tackle the draining effects of networking, we’ve listed some techniques to remove some of the daunting aspects of networking; whether you’re an introvert or are simply looking to brush up on a few new techniques.
1. Pick the right event
Going to an event when you’re unsure about its focus isn’t ideal, as it will be hard to make conversation and will lead to any introvert feeling extremely awkward and out of place. It may sound obvious, but always choose industry events you actually have a good working knowledge of so conversation can flow easier. CeBIT hosts networking events to complement the exhibition every year, check it out if you’re in the technology industry.
Also, don’t bring a friend. Even if you’re not an introvert it’s almost human nature that you’ll gravitate to a familiar face instead of to others and look more unapproachable if you have someone at your side.
2. Work out what you want out of the event
Networking events offer many benefits. Due to their more informal nature, people are usually more relaxed than in day-to-day business situations and have the time to hear what you’re all about. Best of all, everyone has a similar interest and they’re there to boost their business.
To benefit from the networking event it’s best to know what you want to come out with before you walk in — do you want business cards? LinkedIn connections? etc. Having a set plan will also help you to feel a lot more at ease during the event.
3. Know what you want to say before you go
Remember the old saying, “if you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail”? Well it’s true. If you get nervous around people and feel exhausted by the fast-paced environment networking events can bring, know what you want to say before you go. It’s inevitable someone is going to ask you “Who do you work for?” and “What is your role?” so have a succinct, two-sentence summary prepared that you’ve already practiced. Ensure you sound like a human when you deliver the message, don’t memorise your pitch word-for-word!
4. Watch your body language
Watching your body language as an introvert can be a difficult task, when you’re told “don’t cross your legs” it just makes you want to do it more because you become self conscious about it.
Here are some tips and alternatives to keep in mind:
- Actively listen and interpret what the person you’re talking to is saying by leaning slightly forward and including a smile and head nod where appropriate.
- If you always cross your arms and legs it can give off a ‘closed-off vibe’. If you find yourself doing this it might be best to sit, or stand, at a table and talk — you could even take notes.
- Watch the nervous habits you might have like, tapping your feet and biting your nails or lips. If you’re a foot tapper, scrunch your toes inside of your shoe instead. If you bite your nails or your lips, always have a glass of water in your hands. Take a sip when you’re about to bite your lip and when you’re in a resting position hold the glass to avoid biting your nails.
Unlike extroverts who gain energy from human interaction, introverts get drained by too much social interaction. Take some time out in the hallway, go for a quick walk, or retreat to the bathroom and recharge. You’ll probably find other introverts doing the same thing, which can lead to incredible contacts. The quick getaway is also a great time to make some notes on the contact’s business cards/or in your notes app — do this to jog your memory and make post-event communication more personalised
5. Go for quality, not quantity
Quality is key when it comes to networking. Meeting everyone in the room and gathering everyone’s business cards is not absolutely necessary. Not only is rushing to meet everyone overwhelming and confronting, it reduces the time you spend with each person leading to less time to connect at a deeper level. Take networking at your own pace and actually get to know the person you’re speaking too, only move on when the conversation dries up.
6. Follow up with written communication
Post-event follow up is often much easier for introverts because writing is a stand out strength amongst introverts. Writing an email or letter allows you to edit and accurately articulate what you want to say — plus you get the added bonus of a computer screen or paper as a buffer. Also, connect with your new contact a LinkedIn to keep up with them and further the relationship (that is, if you think it’s worthwhile).
Networking as an introvert is not easy. It can deplete you of your energy, take you right out of your comfort zone and leave you feeling stressed. But with the right techniques and strategy you can master networking and leave an event with valuable contacts. You just have to know what you want to achieve, be open to new experiences and keep an eye on your body language -and of course - practice makes perfect.