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How to do Events + Networking Right: Introvert Edition

This week, I’m in DC for a client event.

Although this is an event I planned, it has me reflecting on events and networking in general.

I admit, I started out absolutely not wanting to do either.

These were on a constant loop in my head:

“I hate networking and group events.”
“I never know what to say to people.”
“I loathe small talk.”
“If one more person comments on the weather, I’m going to lose it.”

I also hear people say these excuses a lot.

But the truth is, if you want to have a business, you need to be visible in some way. And one of the best ways is to attend events and networking with others – peers, influencers, connectors, and ideal clients.

And really, when you think about it, events are a double plus because you get to learn new concepts, ideas, and strategies, AND meet people who are interested in similar topics as you are.

I used to think I was “bad” at events or doing them “wrong” because I’m an introvert. For a long time, I didn’t understand what it meant to be an introvert, and wrongly assumed it meant I was shy and couldn’t talk to people I didn’t know.

But that way of thinking was holding me back.

So I started to attend events where I could meet with other business owners, which then would lead to 1:1 networking appointments, or as I like to call them – coffee chats.

During my experiment to put myself out there, I found surefire tips to for successful event and networking for introverts and had to share them with you:

1. Realize that Introvert ≠ Shy. Being an introvert really refers to how we gain energy. And for introverts, it’s not by being around people. We actually need space to re-energize. Approach the event knowing that your personality type isn’t an immediate handicap to talking to others. Just get that thought out of your head now.

2. Prepare, prepare, prepare. Give some thought in advance of the event to two very simple, but important items:

  1. what do I want to get out of the event?
  2. what are a few starter questions I can ask others?

By pre-thinking your goal for the event, you’ll have a clear plan for who you’re looking to meet and the kinds of questions you want to ask others, which releases some of the anxiety that is an energy suck.

Having a few starter questions up your sleeve also saves loads in frazzled nerves each time you meet someone new. You want to find a good balance between superficial (“so, some weather we’re having lately, right?”) and too deep (“so, what’s your current passion?”). It can be as simple as – “Is this your first time at X event?”, “What’s your connection to [event organizer/group]?”, “What do you do?”

3. Look to connect with only a small portion of the room. It’s really easy to tell yourself that if there’s 100 people in the room, you want to meet with at least half of those people. As an introvert, you thrive on deep, meaningful connections. So why not honor that? Instead, set yourself a goal of forming a connection with five people.

4. Turn the focus to others. To help keep your energy up, put the focus on the person you’re talking with and ask them questions. In truth, that’s the #1 thing people like to talk about – themselves! Use it to your advantage in building that meaningful connection.

5. Take a break when you need it. Remember how I said that introverts need space to re-energize? Well, it’s true. So if you find yourself waning midway through the event, take a break. Step out of the room (because no one wants to be that person in the corner checking their email). Take a few deep breaths in the lobby. Or go outside for a few minutes to find some calm. When you’re ready, head back inside and get back to wowing your fellow event attendees.

6. Give yourself permission to get it wrong. Sometimes, we attend an event that we think is going to skyrocket our visibility, lead to dozens of new client leads, but it turns out to be a total dud. That’s okay – sometimes the energy of the room is off or we are. Not every event goes as planned, so cut yourself some slack, and don’t let it discourage you from attending the next event on your calendar.

7. Be realistic about how many and how often. You likely need more time than extroverts to recover from the event. Instead of being raring to go to another event the next day, you might need a day or two just to recover your energy, before getting back into the swing of your day-to-day. For me, I know that if I attend an event one week, I likely can’t go to another for a week or two, and my monthly max for coffee chats is 3-5h, depending on my workload for that month.

As I wrote this article, I couldn’t help but laugh a little. Less then four years ago, I was terrified at the thought of going to a business event. And my old way of thinking was that I would just plain ol’ avoid them.

But, by approaching business events with a method that works best for me, I’ve done a complete turnaround and actually look forward to the events now.

What about you? If you had to rate (on a scale of 1-10) your comfort level with attending events and networking, what would it be? And, more importantly, why? Tell me below in the comments.

Photo by Cozendo on Pixabay

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