When you’re an introvert, in person networking can feel scary. But it’s also exciting and can help you grow your business in new ways. Here are some tips to help you network like a pro.
Do I Really Have To Network In Person?
Rachel had always been an introvert. She enjoyed running her online business and participating in virtual conferences and video chats. When she decided to give networking in person a try, she was nervous.
For her first event, Rachel attended a small conference and found she really loved it. Not only did her business grow as a result of participating in the conference, she also discovered the benefits of networking in person.
Magic Happens in Person
If you only do online marketing, you’re often left to guess many things, including the chemistry you have with another person. But in person events give you a chance to discover who you click with.
Often, you’ll discover more common ground at one event than you will in fifty online messages. That’s because messages can be carefully worded and edited repeatedly. While networking in person, you don’t have that luxury. As a result, you’re more likely to make genuine connections based on who you really are.
Partnership Happens in Person
Maybe you’ve had an idea for a new course that you’d like to create that’s been in your head for months. Maybe you’re listening to one of the event speakers while you dream up a new project idea. Maybe you’re participating in a mastermind session and another participant is so passionate about what they’re doing that you know you want to partner up with them in the future.
While it’s true that you can find partners online to share in a project, it can be fun and rewarding to partner with someone that you’ve had a chance to meet in person. You know their personality, their energy, and their style from spending time together at events.
Branding Happens in Person
It’s easy to think that your brand is simply the colors you use on your website or the logo that’s on your social media accounts. But branding is so much more than that. Branding is your personality and the way you communicate it.
When you attend in person networking events, you get the chance to see your brand through fresh eyes. You might discover that you need to tweak your brand’s story so that it resonates with your customers. You might learn that you need to let more of your quirky personality shine in your content.
Choosing Events That Stress You The Least
Networking when you’re an introvert doesn’t have to feel like you’ve just stepped into a horror movie. Networking can actually be fun and enjoyable if you familiarize yourself with the different types of events and know how to pick the ones that will work best for you.
Know the Difference: Single Track or Multi-Track
Single track events have one thing happening at a time. You might listen to one speaker, have lunch, then listen to another speaker. Everyone is following the same schedule, so there’s a good chance you’ll be able to connect with other attendees.
But multi-track events may have several speakers presenting at once so you have to choose between which sessions to attend and which ones to miss. Multi-track events can be overwhelming and make it harder to find time to interact with other attendees.
Whether you choose a single track event or a multi-track comes down to your goals. If you’re looking for a relaxed pace and a chance to connect with others, then opt for a single track. If you’re trying to absorb a lot of information on a particular topic, then a multi-track event might be a better match for you.
Size Matters: Small Events vs Big Events
Networking events come in all shapes and sizes. Some conferences boast thousands of attendees while a beach retreat, like Beachpreneurs, may only have a few guests. Smaller events like the retreat allow for more intimacy and more one-on-one interaction. Since you aren’t trying to memorize dozens of names and faces, you can relax and focus on getting to know other attendees on a more personal level.
Larger events may allow you to meet dozens of people but you’ll have to work extra hard to remember who’s who. This can make it hard to bond with other attendees and form deep relationships. If you’ll be attending a big event, try to choose one with plenty of down time included in the schedule so you can spend time with other attendees and really get to know them.
When it comes to selecting an event, be choosy. Look for one that excites you and makes you feel energized when you think about attending.
Watch The Vibes You’re Sending
Most introverts feel uncomfortable when they’re networking in person. You may feel nervous and hesitant, too. Sometimes, your discomfort can make you seem unapproachable and causes other attendees feel like you aren’t interested in talking or interacting with them. That’s why it can be helpful to keep the B’s in mind when you’re networking.
Be aware of your body language.
Your body language often communicates louder than anything you could say. If you keep your arms crossed during most events, people will assume you’re unfriendly. If you spend the entire event wrapped up in your phone, other attendees will think you’re bored or unapproachable.
Take a few seconds during each event to observe your own body language. If your shoulders are hunched, relax them. If you’re looking at the flooring or ceiling, stop and look up. Meet the eyes of other attendees and give them a brief smile. Adjusting your body language may seem simple but you’d be surprised at how approachable it makes you look.
Be the first to say ‘Hello’.
Don’t wait around for someone else to start a conversation with you. Even extroverts can be nervous in social situations so take the lead. You can start by introducing yourself and asking a simple question. Ask what upcoming projects the attendee is excited about or ask how they got into their profession.
You’re not attending this networking event to impress everyone with your runway skills. When you’re uncomfortable with how you look, it’s hard to feel good about yourself. That’s why you should wear clothes that make you feel confident.
You may feel awkward and nervous when you’re in a conversation with someone you don’t know. It can be tempting to use one word answers or just nod along as the other person does all the talking.
But a big part of the reason you’re at a networking event to socialize. That means opening up and participating in conversations, even if you feel uncomfortable at first. Instead of answering questions with just a word or two, try to provide a bit more detail. For example, if someone asks what you do, don’t answer, “I’m a marketer.” Instead try something like, “I’m a video marketer. I help small companies learn how to use livestreaming and vlogging to get more customers.”
It’s normal to feel a bit uncomfortable at a networking event, especially if you’re an introvert. But don’t let that stop you from socializing and having a good time. Stay approachable and if you see someone alone, don’t be afraid to start a conversation with them.
Create Situations that Suit You
If you’re introvert, you may find networking in person uncomfortable. To grow your business and reach the next level of success, you’ll have to network at some point. But that doesn’t mean you have to drop everything and attend the biggest conferences in your niche right now.
You wouldn’t try to learn how to swim in the middle of the ocean. No, you’d start in a smaller environment, like a community pool. If you’re afraid of the water, you may even start by simply putting your feet in a wading pool. It’s the same concept with networking in person. Start with a small pool and it won’t seem as scary.
Make plans for your meals.
Making a plan to eat a meal with other attendees in advance is one way to slowly wade into the networking waters. Before the event or on the first day, make lunch or dinner plans for the rest of the event, prioritizing the people you really want to have a personal chat with.
These meals don’t have to include a lot of people. If you’re happiest at dinner with two or three other people, make that happen. You don’t have to accept invites to big group meals if the thought makes you uncomfortable.
Don’t hide in your hotel room.
Socializing with other attendees is an important part of networking events. If you don’t know anyone, it can be tempting to hide out in your hotel room. But don’t be a hermit. At the end of the day, invite one or two people to join you for a glass of wine or a snack. This gives you some uninterrupted time to really connect with other attendees.
Ask for what you want.
Don’t be shy if there’s someone at your networking event that you’d like to get to know. Introduce yourself and ask if they have time later to meet up. If the other person agrees, don’t stop there.
Now, you want to nail down the specifics. Try to arrange a meeting in a quiet place where you can both talk. For example, you might say, “I’m excited you want to meet up. Do you think we could get together tomorrow afternoon about three in the lobby?”
If you don’t get down to the specifics, you and the other attendee won’t make the meeting. You’ll go home wishing that you had taken the time to connect, even if it was only for a few minutes.
Don’t let the thought of networking intimidate you. Just focus on dipping your toes in the water for now. Later when you’re ready, you can try bigger pools and eventually, you’ll find yourself swimming in the ocean.
Have a Plan for Retreat and Recovery
Introverts often find prolonged social interaction and busy events draining. If you’re an introvert, you may have noticed that after networking events you feel tired and lack energy. This may not be much of a problem if you attend a short networking event in the afternoon and spend your evening relaxing and regrouping.
But when a networking event is stretched over several days like a conference or seminar, you risk returning home and feeling drained for the next week. But this can be avoided when you have a plan for retreat and recovery during a networking event.
Build in periods of time for rest.
Before you leave for any event, you should check the schedule and see what’s on the agenda for each day. This will give you an idea of when you can plan for some rest and relaxation. For example, you may notice an empty time slot in the afternoon that you could use to decompress.
You can use your decompression time however you like. You might want to go for a massage, read a book, or watch an episode of your favorite sitcom. Doing something that makes you feel good will help you return to your networking event later with more energy and enthusiasm.
Know your limits.
It can be helpful when you’re attending a conference or other networking event to know your limits. For example, attending four sessions back to back might be too much for you. Instead, you can pick the two sessions that appeal the most to you and show up only for those two. In between sessions, you can decompress or if you’re still feeling good, socialize with other attendees that aren’t at the session.
Prioritize what matters most.
Before a networking event, take the time to think about what you’re hoping to accomplish by attending. If you hope to build a network of affiliates that will promote your latest offering, then you know that socializing with others is your top priority. If you hope to find a new joint venture partner, then you know to look around for someone that you click with.
You may simply want to attend a networking event to help you learn something new, like how to do video marketing or how to re-target your advertisements. If that’s the case, then you’ll want to focus on attending sessions that give you the information you need.
Keep in mind that conferences always seem to go by much faster than you think they will. That’s why it can be helpful to have a game plan in mind ahead of time. This lets you build in plenty of time to relax and enjoy your time there.
If you’re looking for a small intimate event to attend, Exposure & Profit 6 is coming up October 11-13th, 2019 in Atlanta, GA.