We simply cannot keep Lori Saitz to ourselves. Lori is a phenomenal human being who professionally works with other quiet people to help them move past their fear of networking so they can find success in their business lives. Since her core expertise is meaningful communication, we knew she could bring insights to share with our community. Check it out…
Have you been accused of being an introvert? Does it make you feel insufficient or lacking in some way? Perhaps you’ve seen articles or heard “experts” talk about how to overcome your introversion to be better at networking. To that recommendation, I say, Why the heck would you want to do that?
Let’s clear up a common misconception: there’s nothing wrong or lacking when you identify as an introvert, or a quiet person, or someone who is more reserved. It’s no different than having blue eyes or brown hair. It’s a feature of who you are, not a character flaw. In fact, more people identify as introverts (roughly 50%) than have blue eyes (only 8%). Yet you don’t see webinars on how to overcome having blue eyes to be better at networking.
You’re successful when you accept who you are and use your strengths to your advantage. In this case, you can be an introvert and still have a good time at events that require networking.
If you’re someone who doesn’t particularly like networking because you think it’s overwhelming, the conversations are superficial, or it drains your energy, what if you adjusted the circumstances to better fit you? You don’t have to force yourself to fit the event…it can work the other way around.
While helping many quiet people move past their fear of networking, I’ve noted three popular reasons why they hate or avoid events. By working through these reasons together, we can help you–the introvert or quiet person–enjoy your next conference or networking event.
“Networking situations are overwhelming for me.”
Large events such as conferences and banquets often draw hundreds of people. If you’re not confident in your conversational abilities and you don’t know anyone there, these types of events can create anxiety. The best plan for networking success is to start out attending smaller events. Find groups that meet in smaller venues or as sub-groups of a larger organization.
It’s easier to connect and deepen a discussion with someone when there are only 20 people in the room versus 300 people milling around. It’s even easier if the format of the event is an interactive presentation. Look for opportunities to attend those types of events.
Here’s an example: a few weeks ago, I attended an educational seminar on Becoming Your Own Leadership Coach. The Women’s Leadership Forum is a sub-group of a larger networking organization and it tends to draw 20-40 people per event. The speaker invited questions and conversation during her presentation. Afterwards, attendees had the opportunity to talk amongst themselves and it created great conversations. Technically, this was networking. So why was it successful? Because we could take the speaker’s topic and create a common talking point around. it. We could ask questions of others regarding their experiences. And asking better questions and getting more specific in conversation leads to more enjoyable networking. Plus, it was in a conference room, not a ballroom.
“Conversations always feel superficial at these things.”
For some reason, most professionals have been trained to ask, “What do you do?” as their first question upon meeting a new person at an event. For the most part, they mean it as what do you do as a job. This is likely the single most hated question in networking. Yet, everyone is still asking it!
So don’t ask that question. Come up with more interesting queries to make your conversations more substantial. You will enjoy your interactions more because you’re shifting your intention to focus on the other person with a better question, and you will make yourself more memorable in the eyes of your conversational partners.
Need ideas for better questions? How about:
- How did you get into your career field?
- What do you do for fun?
- What are you looking to get out of, or learn, at this event?
If you want to make networking a better experience, take a little control and change the parts you don’t like to make them work for you.
“Attending events drains my energy.”
Many, although not all, introverts find networking events draining. Creating small talk in large groups isn’t necessarily fun. But if you follow the advice in these first two points, you’ll be able to eliminate most of the energy suck.
Spending several hours feeling trapped in a room with strangers can lead to fantasies of escaping to a quiet soak in the tub with a good book. There is nothing wrong with needing your alone time, and recognizing when you need to draw boundaries at an event or leave.
One way to keep networking events from draining all your energy is to limit your time there. If an event is three hours long, no one says you have to stay the entire time. Get there early, stay for an hour and leave. Or take a break and step outside for a breath of fresh air when you need to.
The overall point is, there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to networking. It’s not a matter of becoming more extroverted or acting like someone you’re not. It’s not about changing who YOU are so you fit some kind of networking mold. You become better at networking by using the strengths you already have.
About Lori Saitz
As a networking strategy coach and speaker, Lori Saitz works with other quiet people to get past their fear of networking so they can find success in their business lives. You can learn more about Lori and her book How to Feel Comfortable, Confident & Courageous at Networking Events at https://www.ZenRabbit.com/book