4 Tips For Introverts Ongoing To Networking Events

Reposted from: Things Career Related, A Practical Look at the Job Search

Recently I was given a ticket to a guest-speaker event for a group of young professionals in my community. This, I thought, would be great because I’d be seeing Erik Qualman speak about social media–Erik wrote Socialnomics and is a great speaker. I thought I would be able to sit comfortably and listen to an expert on social networking speak.

When I arrived at the event I discovered it was to be preceded by a networking hour and that I was woefully underdressed. I promptly entered the building, went to the men’s room, and exited the building. I needed air. It took me a few minutes to collect myself and prepare for an unfamiliar group of well-dressed people I’d be meeting (or hiding from). I was starting to feel like I was in a dream where I was in one of my workshops dressed in my underwear only. But I promptly re-entered the building and (luckily) spotted someone I knew.

An article titled Networking for Introverts brings to mind some great points, namely: 1) network on your own terms, 2) create a comfortable environment for yourself, 3) leverage your skills as an introvert. All of these suggestions were negated the moment I entered the large hall.

I have four tips to add to Karl Stark’s and Bill Stewart’s article, all of which advise that introverts prepare for a networking event, not simply go with eyes closed–I’m proof of this. Here are my four tips.

  1. Know what’s on the agenda. In retrospect the first thing I should have asked when accepting the ticket to this event was what kind of event it was going to be. Instead I gratefully accepted the ticket  from a benefactor failing to ask a very important question, ”What is the agenda  for the night?” If she told me there would be some networking involved, I would have been better prepared. To an introvert this is essential.
  2. Ask if there’s a dress code. Not all networking events are created equal.  Had I known there was going to be a networking session before the speaker went on, I would have dressed better. Imagine my surprise when most of the men were wearing suites and the women wearing dresses. There’s nothing more distracting than knowing you’re under dressed for a networking event.
  3. Go with business cards. I have business cards for work as well as personal business cards, none of which were on my person. Had I known what was going to precede the speaking event, I would have brought a set of business cards. There is nothing worse than someone handing you his/her business card and having to say, “I’m sorry, I didn’t bring my cards with me.”
  4. Mentally prepare for the event. Related to #1, introverts have to develop a “Just do it” attitude. We need to prep ourselves to get outside our comfort zone, which includes preparing for small talk, not relying on seeing a room full of familiar faces. Preparing for a networking event might begin hours before the event, or, for some, days beforehand. This also means fighting the excuses not to attend, like not being dressed for the occasion.

The evening turned out to be great fun for me. I spoke to people who were no more prepared than me and others who were there to work the room. When I re-entered at the beginning of the event, I knew there was no turning back; and I’m glad I didn’t. One thing I wish I had done that evening was stay for the food, which looked awesome.