It can be tough for introverted individuals to navigate the business world. Reaching out to new people and forging connections can go against every one of our instincts, and at times it can feel like a futile effort. However futile it may seem, it is not impossible to reach out of your comfort zone and make a few genuine connections in the business world. The main trick for introverts is to strive for quality rather than quantity. Here are some tips that may be of help at your next function or meeting:
Lower your expectations.
If you are like myself and tend to look forward to an event and imagine yourself navigating a party with ease, I suggest you make sure to take a second to keep your expectations (and daydreams!) in check.
Now, I am not telling you to resign yourself to a fate of sitting alone, pretending to check your phone while waiting for someone to come introduce themselves to you. I’m simply advising you not to get your hopes up. Start out the day with the hopes of making one, maybe two quality connections, rather than aiming to meet a handful of new people. Remove this added pressure and instead focus on setting realistic goals that you can actually meet.
Choose your words beforehand.
It can be very difficult for introverts to jump into easy conversation, as we tend to prefer listening over talking, and often find it challenging to reach out to new people. Try to prepare yourself for this before heading to the event by performing some simple research.
Find out who else is attending. Make a mental list of some starter questions that show you’re interested in who the person is and what they do. If you are unable to find out the guest list, research the event itself (is it a charity event? is it company-sponsored?), and think of some questions you can ask in relation to this. For example, you can ask someone how they know the host, or how they became involved with this foundation/company.
You could also come up with some facts about yourself that follow along the same path. Imagine some questions that might be aimed towards yourself, and think of some answers that you feel comfortable expanding upon, and which will give enough information to invite further conversation.
Create true connections.
Remember that you are at an event of intelligent men and women, and it is easy to tell when someone is being false with you. Be genuine with anyone you speak with, and aim to make a few true connections rather than several superficial ones.
Try asking open-ended questions that will allow the other person to talk about themselves, and make sure you are paying attention. Ask them questions, give them feedback, and focus on what they are saying.
Share personal stories.
In my experience as an introvert, it is very difficult to open up about myself. When holding a conversation, try your best to add detail whenever you can. If someone asks you how you began in your company, try to throw in a funny anecdote or give some back story. Instead of simply saying ‘thank you’ when someone compliments your necklace, tell them a bit about where/how you got it.
When you are open and friendly with people they are more likely to feel a lasting connection.
Make sure you follow up.
Make sure you follow up with your contact a day or two after meeting. Send them an email and let them know that you appreciate meeting them. Be genuine – include a topic that the two of you discussed, or one you know they are interested in. It’s important that your email doesn’t read as one you’ve sent to multiple contacts, let them know that they stand out in your mind and they will be more likely to continue your connection.
“I see the ability to network as a muscle, not an inherent trait.”