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May 1, 2019

Networking for Introverts

To succeed in business, you need to network. It’s free, puts you in touch with people who can help you and your business, and leads to future business opportunities.

But for many entrepreneurs, networking ranks right up there with root canals and IRS audits as things they’d never want to do. They’re introverts, and being in social situations is not their forte.

It’s more common than you think. About half the American population are introverts, including such successful businesspeople as Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Warren Buffett, Elon Musk and Google co-founder Larry Page. That’s quite a list, and they have managed to overcome their propensity for being alone to get out in front of people and sell their products.

Let’s set one thing straight: Although many introverts may label themselves as shy, that’s not necessarily the case. Introverts can be in a large group of people, but it drains their energy. They dislike small talk and would rather be at home with a book than in a room full of strangers. If you’re shy, you get anxious in social situations and hesitate meeting new people.

Being an introvert and an entrepreneur can be tricky, but there are some things you can do to overcome your fear of being around people, open up, and make new, valuable connections:

  1. Prepare for the event. What type of event is it? What kind of people will be there? Will you know anyone? Sometimes talking to someone you know at an event will give you the confidence to approach other people. If you won’t know anybody there, consider bringing along a colleague or friend.
  2. Have an elevator pitch ready. Who are you? What do you do? What does your company do? Be ready to describe these things in about 10-15 seconds. It’s usually the first question someone asks you.
  3. Have some questions ready. If you have to write them down, do it. There’s nothing worse than running out of things to say, so make a list. Ask about their business, what they like most about it, what they do in their free time. The sky’s the limit here.
  4. Get there early. It’s hard to come in late to a networking event, when all the small groups have formed and there’s no one to talk to. It’s like everyone’s dancing and you’re sitting on the side. Arrive early and get involved with conversations before everyone else does.
  5. Listen. Listening is the key to effective communication. People love to talk about themselves, so ask questions. Of course, you want to let them know about yourself and your business, so work that into the conversation.
  6. Smile. Nothing breaks the ice like a warm, genuine smile. People will find you more approachable, friendlier and easier to talk to.
  7. Don’t be afraid to take a break. Remember, networking can be taxing on introverts. Go outside, breathe some fresh air, and get back to it.
  8. Show empathy. The person you’re talking to may be an introvert. If they seem standoffish, it may just mean that they’re uncomfortable as well. Use this to your advantage; coax them out of their shell with questions. Remember, people like talking about themselves. The more relaxed you make them, the more relaxed you’ll become.
  9. Emphasize quality over quantity. Don’t focus on the number of connections you make. If you have meaningful conversations with only two or three people, that’s much better than grabbing business cards from 20 different people.
  10. Practice, practice, practice. Like public speaking, the more you network, the better you’ll get at it.

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