Go From Shy Introvert to Networking Superstar
by Sarah Hathorn, AICI CIP, CPBS
Networking is vital in today’s business world, but some of us (myself included, believe it or not!) are introverts at heart and working the room or stepping to the podium is just contrary to our nature. But despite the fact that I was born shy, I now spend a great deal of my time mingling at conferences, standing in the media spotlight, delivering keynote addresses, and coaching high-powered executives on how to network with bold, fearless confidence.
Here are some helpful tips for those who are “networking challenged.”
Own your introversion.
Worrying about your shyness only magnifies it and makes you more uncomfortable. But introversion just means you know how to reflect deeply, analyze situations from the inside-out, and derive strength and energy from inside yourself. Many extroverts wish they had that ability, so reframe your identity as a unique value-adding trait.
Anyone will feel a bit tense if they walk into a room full of strangers. In fact many famous actors and celebrities admit that they have stage fright that they have somehow learned to manage. The way to do it is to realize that when you are just talking to one or two people it is no big deal. So when you are networking, forget the big picture. Focus on one person and one conversation at a time. Then move to another one-on-one interaction. Soon you’ll be networking like a pro, without feeling the jitters of big crowd claustrophobia.
Get comfortable outside your familiar zone.
To do this it is critical that you practice, practice, practice. That will transform discomfort into confident strength that comes naturally. As the ancient Roman statesman and philosopher Cicero said, “You need to acquire the qualities you don’t have but make it seem as if you were born with them.” Over time you will start to feel completely at home, even in the midst of crowds, because you will develop a mastery of networking done on your own terms.
Be sure to also take advantage of social media to help reach out and connect without the stress. You can get to know people ahead of time, for example, so that when you do meet them in a networking situation you will already feel acquainted. That makes it fun and easy to chat, share, and make highly valuable professional and career contacts.
Your Predictable Promotion Assignment
People love to talk about themselves, and it is easier to ask questions than it is to answer them. So write down a list of five to six interesting questions that you’d like to ask someone when you’re introduced and want to do some networking. Having some scripted questions in mind will take the pressure off of you to perform and will make the person you’re meeting feel flattered that you are interested in getting to know them.