How to Ace Your Next Networking Event (the Introvert Way)
Networking events are about a lot more than the free appetizers. They can be a great way to expand your professional contacts, discover new career opportunities, and get up to speed on industry trends. But for introverts who tend to avoid small talk, often feel drained after socializing, and recharge by spending time alone, networking events can also be a bit terrifying.
Read on for six ways to gain a fresh perspective and make the most out of your next networking event.
1. Join the event’s online community beforehand.
Often, the event organizer will create an invite through an online site like Facebook within an already-existing group, or will create a Twitter hashtag to follow along with event-related details and ideas. If you’re not already part of the group, this is a great opportunity to get involved.
By simply observing the online chatter prior to an event, you’ll get a better sense of who will be attending and can more easily start putting names to faces. And by joining in the conversation—even if it’s just to introduce yourself—you’ll feel more comfortable and likely make connections prior to the actual event. When you see one of your new connections at the event, you can confidently stride over and say your version of, “Hey, I’m Sarah—you’re Bob, right? I loved talking to you about user experience on the group page last week.”
2. Plan a few icebreakers.
We’re not talking about plotting trust falls to win over soon-to-be contacts, but planning some conversation starters can build your confidence and make it easier to walk up to a group or start a conversation near the snack table. Start by brainstorming questions you might want to ask someone. They don’t have to be work-related, though “Where do you work?” will likely come up.
- Consider questions like, “What keeps you busy on
the weekends?” or “What TV shows are you really into right now?”
- Giving a genuine compliment is a perfect way to
start a conversation when you’re at a loss for what to ask. Something as simple
as “Your watch is so unique! Where did you find it?” can spark a deeper
- “So, is this your first time at one of these
events?” may elicit a simple yes or no, but the answer can lead to more
follow-up questions, and maybe even a networking event BFF.
- An observation about the atmosphere or the food can start a discussion. Try, “Have you tried the salsa and chips? Surprisingly amazing,” or “Is it just me, or is this room freezing cold?” It’s not as important what conversation starter you come up with, but that you have a few in your back pocket to use when you’re feeling stuck.
3. Role play with a friend.
Take the idea of “practice makes perfect” and apply it to a networking setting. Grab a friend, family member, or trusted mentor. Explain that networking events freak you out a bit, and ask them to help you get event-ready by staging “practice” conversations. (Hint: It never hurts to sweeten the deal with some pizza or snacks). Ask interesting questions of your role play partner. This is a great way to try out your new icebreakers to see if they work well or land flat. If you’re an introvert, talking about yourself probably feels uncomfortable, so spend some time doing that until it feels more normal. Perfect your “elevator pitch,” and know that although it may not roll off your tongue verbatim during a networking conversation, having it in mind it will help you talk about yourself and your career successes and ambitions more naturally.
Even better, bring a buddy to the event. They can encourage you, make you laugh, and help you shake off your nerves. Having a wingman/woman is kind of like having a home security system: You may not need them, but it’s nice to know they’re there.
4. Look your best.
An event in which you’ll be surrounded by people you don’t know—but whom you want to get to know—is the perfect excuse to do something for yourself that makes you feel great. Get yourself that new shirt you’ve been eyeing; treat yourself to a manicure or haircut; polish your shoes; or relax the night before with a bubble bath and face mask. Feeling good on the inside will radiate that go-get-‘em attitude externally.
5. Practice breathing techniques.
Breath work has been shown to stabilize or lower blood pressure, strengthen the immune system, and decrease stress. In the hours leading up to an anxiety-inducing event, it can be an instrumental part of finding your inner zen and keeping things in perspective.
First, find a comfortable spot—at home, outside, or even at work during a break. Then, practice along with this 10-minute video to get in a calmer, more meditative state of mind and invoke your “relaxation response,” a state of profound rest first developed in the 1970s at Harvard Medical School by cardiologist Dr. Herbert Benson. Breathing techniques are a great tool to have at the ready whether you’re feeling overwhelmed or simply want to incorporate more calm into your daily life.
6. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself.
Pick a goal for the event, and don’t set your expectations too high, especially in the beginning. Choose something attainable for you, such as, “Meet three new people.” Once you achieve that goal, any introductions you make, business cards you exchange, or job leads you get are a bonus. As you build the confidence to attend more events and increase your level of participation, continue to set higher goals for yourself. You will feel a sense of achievement as you progress—and you’ll be a better and more confident professional in the process. Win-win.
About Signature Consultants, LLC
Headquartered in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Signature Consultants was established in 1997 with a singular focus: to provide clients and consultants with superior staffing solutions. For the ninth consecutive year, Signature was voted as one of the “Best Staffing Firms to Work For” and is named the 15th Largest IT Staffing Firm in the United States (source: Staffing Industry Analysts). With 28 locations throughout North America, Signature annually deploys thousands of consultants to support, run, and manage their clients’ technology needs. Signature offers IT staffing, consulting, managed solutions, and direct placement services. For more information on the company, please visit https://www.sigconsult.com. Signature Consultants is the parent company to Hunter Hollis and Madison Gunn.