As a business owner, it didn’t take me long to realize that networking was an essential element needed in order to create new leads. However I always thought this was an arena for very extroverted people, and although I would not consider myself shy, having sustained conversation with strangers did not always come natural to me.
Then I came across “Networking for People Who Hate Networking: A Field Guide for Introverts, the Overwhelmed, and the Underconnected” by Devora Zack. I enjoyed this book because it helped me understand how I could become an expert networker, while being myself. The book helped me realize that most of the population are NOT extroverted. However the rest of us have qualities which can be used as an advantage. Contrary to what one may believe, introverts can be great networkers, if they leverage the strengths they have. So while I will not attempt to review the entire book, I would like to highlight some key points that might help make your next networking event more productive.
So, how do we define extroverts and introverts? Keep in mind, that these are generalizations, and many of us fall somewhere in between these extremes (centroverts). In general, introverts are reflective, focused and self-reliant, while extroverts are verbal, expansive and social. Other traits include:
* Think to talk
* Energize alone
* Enjoy few stimuli
* Need concentration
* Prefer one on one discussion
* Value privacy
* Talk to think
* Energize with others
* Enjoy simultaneous stimuli
* Need diversion
* Prefer group discussion
* Value public sharing
On the surface, it may seem hopeless for the introvert or centrovert to expect any kind of success at a networking event. After all, how could someone who values privacy and energizes alone be expected to develop good leads in a room full of strangers? The book goes on debunk three networking “Rules” that can be changed to allow the introverts and centroverts to exploit their strengths.
- Jump on in – Extroverts collect and introverts connect. The common expectation is to fly around the room and collect as many business cards as you can with the goal of meeting as many people as possible. This is where “think to talk” can be a good strategy. Introverts learn by observing and not speaking. They prefer deeper connections instead of small-talk. The new rule is “Pause”. Allow plenty of time before an event to review strategies for effectively communicating your message, and think through responses to questions ahead of time. Being prepared allows the introvert to be comfortable in networking situations.
- Self-Promote Yourself – The classic networking rule, which is geared toward extroverts, is to repeat the “elevator speech”, a 30 second self-promotion, to as many people as possible. Introverts often are not comfortable talking about themselves. Since introverts learn by listening and observing, and also enjoy one on one conversations, they are very good at learning a tremendous amount about new acquaintances. So, the self-promote rule is replaced by “Process”. Asking open ended questions and observing verbal and non-verbal ques will allow the introvert to develop a deeper, more lasting relationship, which can help produce meaningful leads.
- Maximize Time with Others (party). Extroverts get energized by interaction. The more social events, the better. Introverts energize alone. They do not feed on the energy of others during a networking event. They often feel depleted after a sustained social event. So the new rule is “Pace”. Introverts derive their power during downtime. So allow enough time between events to recharge in order to maximize networking effectiveness.
These are just broad strokes, but I think you get the idea. If you have ever felt unsatisfied after a networking event, or felt that you were not suited at using it to promote your business and generate leads, I recommend this book. There is a lot of useful and practical information.
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