As bloggers, one of the things we're told again and again is how important networking is. Whether it's through mixers, lunches, or conferences, the advice to “get out there and promote your blog” is something each of us has probably heard at least once. And while networking is very easy for some people, it's really, really hard for people like me. You see, I'm an introvert.
Introversion isn't a bad thing; it's just a personality trait. If you're unfamiliar with the term, introverts tend to be quiet and reserved. We like alone time, and going to parties or interacting with large groups of people can be tiring for us. Introversion isn't the same thing as shyness; it's simply a preference for solitary activities.
While preferring time alone is great is when it's time to write a blog post, it's less good when you need to go out and meet people. As an introvert, I constantly struggle with being more outgoing in social situations. I've not got it perfected yet, but here are a few of the things that helped me out. If you're an introvert, I hope they're useful to you too, and, as always, please share your suggestions in the comments!
Reach out to people you want to meet or talk to before an event.
All the nervousness I feel introducing myself to people naturally is multiplied roughly a hundredfold when I'm at a networking event. It can be difficult for introverts to make conversation in “busy” spaces, so I've found that reaching out to people in advance helps make things easier. Your introduction doesn't have to be anything long or complicated; a quick e-mail or even a tweet will suffice. I think of it as meeting before meeting. That way, when you reach the networking space, you “know” at least one person already.
Prepare in advance for the event.
There are many different ways of preparing for an event, but this one is all about self-care. For me, event preparation means being more quiet than usual for a few days in advance of event, and also building in a “buffer” of alone time to decompress after the event. If you're an introvert, this kind of pre- and post-event planning is critical. You must make it a priority to recharge your batteries if you want to avoid burn out.
Set a reasonable goal for the event.
Another good word here would be an attainable goal. What “reasonable” for everyone varies, and even seemingly small successes are important. One possible goal could be to just stay at the event for an hour. Another goal could be to introduce yourself to three new people (or just one new person if three is too daunting). You can even set goals for after the event, such as contacting the people you introduced yourself to via e-mail. Setting a goal helps you focus on something other than your introversion, and gives you a reason to stretch beyond your comfort zone.
Bring a friend.
It's a funny thing, but I feel much less introverted when I'm attending an event with a friend. Just knowing someone there already can help you feel more relaxed, and that comes across in your body language and voice. Even better, bring an extroverted friend who's willing to play “networking wingman” for you and help make introductions on your behalf.
Appreciate your introversion.
Don't stress out about being an introvert or try to “fix” it. Introverts have lots of good qualities. We're great listeners. We're very observant. We're awesome at cultivating close relationships with people, and much more. Above all, remember that networking, just like anything else, gets better with practice. Once you start doing it, each event becomes easier and easier.
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