For entrepreneurs and business leaders networking is essential. They say it’s who you know that counts, but what if you’re an introvert? While the prospect of meeting new people and building connections may appeal to many business people, for some it’s an extremely daunting and fear inducing prospect.
However, if you find social situations challenging, it doesn’t mean that you are destined not to excel in business, says Jacqueline Whitmore, internationally recognized etiquette expert and author of Poised for Success: Mastering The Four Qualities That Distinguish Outstanding Professionals.
She says with a little planning and the right approach, introverts can do just as well at networking events as their extroverted peers.
Here are her tips for introverts to master networking events:
Don’t psych yourself out with unrealistic expectations that you have to meet as many people as possible. Remember, one quality conversation is more beneficial than 20 superficial ones.
Plan ahead and prepare some icebreakers. Open-ended questions spur interesting conversations. Ask questions like, “How long have you been a member of the host organization?” or “What’s your favorite part of your job?”
Set a Time Limit
Deciding ahead of time how long you’ll stay at an event makes it less intimidating. What you’ll usually find is you only need a few minutes to adjust to the environment, and you end up staying much longer than you planned.
Ask For an Introduction
If there’s a particular person you’d like to meet, try to find a common connection and request an introduction. You’ll get much further with an introduction from a common acquaintance than approaching someone out of the blue.
Practice Empathetic Listening
Introverts are usually fully-engaged and fantastic listeners. Because most people are better at talking than listening, you’ll stand out as someone who values others, and people will remember this about you.
Share Your Personal Stories
If you ask consecutive questions without sharing information about yourself, it can start to feel like an interrogation. Participating in the conversation will help it to flow more naturally. Personalizing a story will also help people remember you.
Practice Makes Perfect
If you’re extremely nervous, challenge yourself with low or no-risk situations. Drive to a networking event in the next town over where you likely won’t know anyone. Experiment with new conversation-starters or stories. That way, even if you make a complete fool of yourself, it won’t matter. And remember, it’s never as bad as you think. You are your own worst critic.
Take Small Steps
With increased practice, you’ll become more comfortable in social situations and with sharing your true personality. Take advantage of everyday opportunities to network. At the office, take small breaks to walk around and casually socialize with your colleagues. Once a week, invite a colleague to join you for lunch or coffee.
For more words of wisdom from Jacqueline Whitmore visit her website here.