Networking tips for introvert business leaders
‘Hello, My name is john. I am the CEO of X company. How are you today?’
You somehow manage to say, ‘H-Hello, nice to meet you. I am Linda, I am good. How are you?’
‘I am good. Thanks.’
And then, you let it hang, until it turns from awkward to weird to a disaster. You go back home and beat yourself up for blowing your chance with a potential client.
Introverts are usually strong, mature, patient and independentindividuals - all the essential qualities to become great leaders - but there is one daunting task that keeps pulling them back, and that is socialising. Most introvert leaders are not great at making small talk and are physically and mentally exhausted in extensive social settings.
So, if you are an introvert, what do you do? Do you attempt to change your entire personality and betray yourself? I think not.
A little bit of practice and preparation can help you confront a social situation well enough to bring in some results and foster long-lasting relationships.
Steve Jobs “came across as bashful and awkward in his early presentations” says the author of the book The Charisma MythOlivia Fox, but had, needless to say revered as one of the most charismatic leaders of this time.
As entrepreneurs and business leaders, our career choice puts us in socially demanding situations. Infact, when I first started my company Hiver, I had to do some extensive networking to propel the business and it sure was a great learning experience for me.
In these demanding situations, panic is not the solution.
Here are few tips to ease your way into networking.
But, before you go any further, please get rid of the idea that introversion and networking are mutually exclusive.
Practice small talk beforehand
Before going to a networking event, or whenever you get the time (because you never know when you will meet someone important) practice small talk in front of the mirror or in any other comfortable way.
Memorise, yes, memorise some opening lines, so that it comes out as second nature to youwhilst striking a conversation.
Aim to ask questions that not just keep the conversation going, but keep it interesting.
If you are a good listener, take advantage of that
Introverts are usually great listeners (says Forbes) and this can help you stand apart from most others who are good at talking but not listening. Just remember that you don’t have to do all the talking as long as you are propelling and steering the conversation.
Listen to others and ask them meaningful questions. This way, you don’t come off as reserved and at the same time you eliminate the most anxious part of networking for yourself:talking.
Learn to tell personal stories
Sure, great listening skills can take you a long way, but there are those situations where you simply have no choice but to talk about yourself.
You may not realise this, but this actually is an advantage.
How so? You have time to prepare.
Comparecoming up with something awesome to say on the spot to preparing and arming yourself with an impressive personal story.
I know which one I would prefer!
Don’t over do...take baby steps
Pushing yourself to socialise is in itself a draining task; if you add to that unrealistic goals, it can make you run away from the idea of networking itself.
Your aim should not be to come out with 20 business cards.
It should be as simple as this:
- Meet a few people.
- Strike one or two quality conversations.
- Come back home and send a follow up email telling them how much you enjoyed talking to them.
- Stay in touch online until you meet again.
You can also dilute the pressure by setting time limits. For example, tell yourself that you will do some quality networking for an hour and then head back home and get some good rest.
Trust me, it’s never about quantity, it’s always about the quality.
Compensate with extensive online networking
Make use of the best gifts of this age:social media and the web.
It is much easier to join online forums and discussions and participate actively.
Joining these professional groups can put you in touch with like-minded professionals and the online interface of networking can help you open up and put forth your opinions more easily.
Also, aim to be active on your social media. Let them speak about your stories, passion and personality.
Going out there and physically networking can take a while for you to get a hang of, but, in the meantime,waste no time in working on expanding your online base.
One last golden tip
Play to your strengths. Introverts, like I said earlier, have many leadership qualities like empathy, reliability, strong-mindedness, independence and more.
So as much as you prepare beforehand for your networking events, try just as much to be yourself because that way you highlight your inner traits and people can see you for what you are.
You don’t have to try and pretend to be an extrovert; more people are now understanding that being an introvert is not being anti-social; it’s just a personality type which is as good as any other.
Betraying your basic personality can only set you back, so instead just be yourself and play to your strengths.
‘Pulling a good network together takes effort, sincerity and time.’ - Alan Collins
About the Author:
Niraj Ranjan Rout the Founder of Hiver (formerly GrexIt), an app the lets you share Gmail labels with other Gmail users. Niraj works on programming, customer support and sales, and also contributes to design and UI. He’s a fusion music aficionadoand loves to play the guitar when he can.