If you don’t feel like a natural networker, these tips may help.
Some people are natural conversationalists. You’ve seen them; they navigate their way around a networking event with such finesse that “working a room” seems like a virtual birthright. Conventional wisdom tells us that personal connections are vital to professional success, particularly when we are on a job search, and effective communicators put that advice to good use. But if you think these chatterboxes were always able to turn on the charm, think again. That may be the case for some, but many have likely just had more practice in the endeavor of transforming strangers into clients, associates, and even friends.
Rather than running and hiding when a networking event shows up in town, you too can be one of these people who engages others, establishes solid connections, and gets your career humming.
Networking Tips for Introverts
If you’ve ever felt like you were passed over by the schmooze fairy, these networking tips for the introverted professional will help you draw others to your newly charismatic self:
1. Keep an eye out for occasions to connect. While there are many great conferences and events presented by professional associations, don’t assume your business networking has to take place in a professional setting. Look for meetups and events on Facebook and EventBrite that interest you. It’s easier to network when you and the other attendees share a common interest — even one that has nothing to do with your profession.
2. Volunteer. Rather than just attend, get involved. Offer to help sign people in or organize the speakers.
3. Arrive early. Greeting others as they arrive will make you feel like you belong.
4. Be present. Give people the gift of your attention, and many will respond in kind.
5. Perk up! Act eager to be there and others will be drawn to your energy. Find what works for pumping up your energy level and make it a part of your pre-event routine. It could be as simple as indulging in a good cup of your favorite caffeinated beverage, listening to the right song, or doing a bunch jumping jacks before heading out to the event.
6. The eyes have it. Eye contact (or lack thereof) tells multitudes about our confidence, so make the effort to really look at who you’re speaking to. Even if you don’t feel it, acting as if you are self-assured will help turn it into a reality.
7. Take note of others’ body language to see if they are involved in a conversation or ready to interact with someone new. Be mindful of forcing your way into conversations. When someone looks approachable, step forward, extend your hand, and introduce yourself.
8. Work the corners of the room. Chances are, you’re not the only introvert at the networking event. Look for other people who are sticking to the edges of the action and approach one of them. You can commiserate with your new friend about your reluctance to network and work the room together.
9. Light up the room! A natural smile involves the eyes, not just the mouth.
10. Ditch the cell phone once you arrive at the event. You won’t develop the knack for yakking by constantly looking down at your phone.
11. Pause your social networking during face-to-face networking events. Don’t spend so much time live tweeting at an event that you fail to talk to the people around you. You attended the event to meet people in person, remember?
12. Be interested. Select someone who looks pleasant and friendly and ask a question or two to start a conversation. Click on the following link for a list of conversation starters to break the ice.
13. Listen. This one is harder than it sounds, but will help create better conversations and more meaningful connections in the future. Remember, you have two ears and one mouth — follow the ratio when engaging with others at networking events.
14. Remember to KISS. Not literally, of course. Keep It Simple, Stanley. Yes, weather chat may be formulaic, but it does work to break the ice. Don’t feel compelled to get too creative with your networking icebreakers.
15. Strike a balance between idle chatter and meaningful exchange. Talk about what’s going on around you, like the food, décor, venue, and speakers.
16. Be informed. Sports, news, film, etc. can be great small talk starters. Steer clear of politics though. If you don’t have a ton of time to read up, here are five ways to get your headlines in a hurry.
17. Keep it light. There’s no need to tell jokes, but an upbeat demeanor is attractive.
18. Build rapport and engage in icebreaker activities. Some popular ones include Speed Networking, Career Pictionary, People Bingo, Strangers-No-More (like MadLibs), and Fact or Fiction.
19. Business card exchanges can be discussion-starters, so have yours ready to go. If you’re currently employed and conducting a confidential job search, consider buying a separate set of business cards that list your personal contact information. Here’s what you need to include on your business cards.
20. Forget about yourself. Even if our culture demands constant self-promotion, the best conversationalists take the focus off of themselves and onto their new connection when networking.
If you really want to connect with other people, jumping into the world of in-person networking is the way to do it; it’s where you’ll form relationships that will be there throughout your career. You may not think you’ve got that innate gift of gab, but with a bit of practice, some positive self-talk, and applying a few of these ideas, any introvert will be shooting the breeze with ease in no time — and that will translate into solid partnerships down the road.
Click on the following link for more business networking tips.
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Photo credit: Dell Inc./Flickr