Few things will jolt an introvert off his A-game more than walking into a massive trade show with thousands of strangers all there to “network.” While extroverts thrive in this atmosphere, introverts can become nervous, anxious and perhaps even physically ill.
I’ve got good news for my fellow introverts in marketing and creative services: You can build your Rolodex – er … iPhone contacts list without relying on manufactured, mass-networking events like conferences, workshops and seminars. Here’s how:
Find the right match
If you’re on the shy side, it’s important to identify the personality types that you feel comfortable around. Introverts often mesh well with extroverts because extroverts will keep the conversation going; however, an extreme extrovert might be overwhelming or overpowering for someone who is introverted. Know your type, and when you meet someone who fits the mold, make a point to build the relationship.
Suggest a meeting
I will choose a one-on-one meeting over an arena of people 10 times out of 10. Meeting others face to face is ideal for an introvert – especially if you’ve already had a conversation or two. Meetings often involve coffee or lunch, which can distract you from your nerves. Plus, small talk is much more manageable than coping with that “alone in a crowded room” feeling. In the rare cases that I attend a networking event, I keep my conversations short and schedule meetings later.
Take online courses
Many marketing courses are available online, ranging from free and easy to “mini MBAs” with top universities. Take advantage of online learning and your network will grow organically. It’s easy to connect with others when you’re studying the same topics and completing assignments. I’m wrapping up a digital marketing certificate program at the University of Vermont that has linked me to industry experts, mentors, colleagues and potential freelance clients.
Strengthen every relationship
Relationships are the most valuable assets in business. The great thing about being an introvert is that you feel totally in tune when you’re around people who understand and accept your social minimalism. Being non-BSers, introverts have a natural tendency to build meaningful relationships; capitalize on this strong suit and let your connections lead you to new ones. Before you know it, you might find yourself surprisingly confident in the situations you’ve always dreaded.
What are your secrets to better networking? Let us know in the comments below.