By Khalilah Starks

Networking events can be intimidating and pressure filled.  I’ve read countless articles and presented workshops full of tips on how to work a room.  And, for some, these tips actually work.  These people are able to work the room and walk away with some great connections.  Why does it work for them?  Most likely, because they’re extroverts.  Extroverts are the life of the party.  These people are outgoing and will talk to anybody.  The more extroverted the person is, the more they love going to any type of social event because it allows them to do what they do best – talk to any and everybody.  But, for an introverted person, the sheer thought of approaching a stranger can be quite uncomfortable.  To them, there’s nothing fun about entering a room and having to approach people that you don’t know in an effort to start and sustain a conversation.

So, what happens at these networking events?  It never fails, you see all of the extroverts conversing and mingling throughout the room.  It’s almost like they all cluster together.  And, then you see the introverts standing alone outside of the cluster, against the wall or next to the food and beverage table.   These are the ones that are actually brave enough to attend the events.  Many introverts choose to spare themselves the horror by opting out of these events.  But, attending these events is important right?  Absolutely!  So, what does the introvert or self imposed wallflower do to be successful at networking events and beyond?

Find the Other Introverts

I can 100% positively tell you that you won’t be the only person at a networking event who’s secretly scared out of their pants (or skirt)!  When you arrive at the event, take a few minutes to scope out the room.  Look for the people standing by themselves sipping on a beverage or snacking on hors d’oeuvres for an extended period of time.  These are your introverts.  The next step is for you is to muster up enough courage to approach that person and introduce yourself.  If it makes you feel better, they’re just as uncomfortable with the situation as you are.  So, pat yourself on the back for taking the first step!  This strategy takes the most guts since it still requires you to work through that uncomfortable feeling of approaching someone that you don’t know.

Plan Ahead and Take Someone with You – The Professional Buddy System

Don’t skip out on a great event because of fear and intimidation.  Taking someone with you can help take the anxiety away from entering into foreign territory.  There’s strength in numbers.  Now, the last thing that you’ll want to do is take one of your introverted friends.  The both of you will just stand there and talk to each other negating the whole “bring a friend” strategy.  Think of the most outgoing and professional friend that you know.  You want the person that will just talk to anybody.  The whole point is to have them open the doors for you.  They approach people and get the conversation started.  Then you join in and get the benefit from the exchange.  Having someone there with you can also give you an additional boost of confidence.

Professional Buddy System Caveat: Be sure to avoid letting your outgoing friend take over the conversation – an agreement beforehand may be necessary.

Get Active with a Professional Organization

Whether you’re an introvert or extrovert, joining a professional organization is a great way to network with professionals in your industry.  The key here is getting active.  It’s not enough to only pay the membership fee.  Volunteer to be on a committee.  This will put you in a position to meet other people and work together on a common goal, while building great relationships.  This is a great strategy for the introvert because there’s no approaching a stranger in this scenario.  The organization does the connecting for you.

Pick Something Fun to Do

Widen your network by starting a hobby such as tennis or taking an art class – something that will make it easy for you to connect with other people.  Your hobby can actually open the door to great professional connections while having fun.  You’ll meet people outside of your profession.  You may also get lucky and meet people within your profession.  If you don’t, all is not lost.  With each connection, you have the ability to develop friendships with people who know people that can later be added to your network.  Think about the six degrees of separation concept.  A great person to know is just a connection away.

What else?  If you’re an introvert, what do you do to make networking easy?

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