Good networking is necessary to find business, advance your career, and grow professionally. Most people think you need to be an extrovert to be a great networker but, although being outgoing and gregarious may be helpful, it's the introverts who have the real networking advantage.
The main difference between introverts and extroverts is their reaction and engagement with other people. Being around people energizes extroverts, while introverts need more-limited contact supported by alone time to re-energize. I myself was quite extroverted in my younger days. I thrived on parties and rarely wanted quiet time. At business events I would attend every social meeting and roundtable, trying to meet everyone I could. I figured the more conversations I had, the more people I would collect.
As I approach my fourth decade in business, I find I value more the quiet time, thinking, strategizing, and filtering contacts. I introspectively ponder who among possible contacts will become the most amazing relationships in which value is brought to all involved. It's my introversion later in life that is driving better connections and larger results from my networking.
Here are five ways that introverts get networking right. You can implement the tips below at any age, even if you're a natural extrovert.
1. They are selective about who they talk to.
Even though you may be able to learn something from everyone you meet, you don't have time to speak to everyone in the world. Introverts may not make friends quickly, but they spend a lot of time observing the people around them. So if they do take the trouble to engage, they have likely already determined that the person has something meaningful to say and some value to add.
Before you head out to glad hand at the next function, spend some time researching who will be at the venue. Target key figures to meet and engage. Be open to others but focus your time on people who fit with your preferred future.
2. They consider what comes out of their mouths.
Heavy talkers miss out on so much in a networking environment. They may entertain with small talk and stories, but they also crowd out the opportunities for substantive conversations and connections. Introverts don't just talk for the sake of talking. True, they sometimes have trouble speaking up. But when they speak, it is with intent and purpose. And because they are slower to say what's on their minds, they have had time to formulate a truly thoughtful, considered opinion. So when they speak, their intelligence and expertise tend to show and attract other intelligent people.
The next time you see the small talk running, rather than join the chatter, plan for the right moment to make an impact upon those who are interesting to you.
3. They get to the point.
When networking, time is a valuable commodity. A single winding conversation can cause you to miss out on several brief, relevant connections. Some people assume that introverts don't know how to converse … they're too awkward or shy. That is largely untrue--they just value their own time and yours. Because lengthy conversations and chitchat drain their energy, they won't linger at the punch bowl or regale you with roundabout stories. They say what needs to be said as it applies and then they move on.
Get good at communicating your value proposition, or any other relevant information, in less than 2 minutes. Give others the chance to connect or move on.
4. They give others time to share.
At their most tedious, networking events devolve into a room full of people frantically trying to sell themselves and listening to no one. Because introverts are comfortable with silence, they are often better able to practice attentive listening. And they don't mind when it takes someone else a few moments to collect their thoughts or explain a complex concept. We all appreciate walking away from a conversation in which we feel we have been truly heard and understood.
Practice the arts of patience and listening. Others may not have your clarity or silver tongue and you don't want to miss the golden opportunity.
5. They follow up with intent.
Extroverts may do well spreading stories and collecting business cards, but if when they get home, they simply focus on the next party, the business benefits from their networking will be lackluster. Introverts thrill to the joy of following up with those who bring value and opportunity. When they choose to engage with someone, they will, at the right time and in the right way.
Next time you bring home that bounty of cards and email addresses, spend some quiet time thinking about how you and each person can bring each other value. Then craft a personal note that reminds him or her of why your contact was worthy of continuing in the first place.
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