Networking is a necessary evil for introverts. It involves small talk and lingering conversations that never seem to end. It can also sap our energy if the event is well attended or runs beyond 2 hours. The flip side is you need to build a solid network online AND offline to grow your business. The benefits far outweigh that uncomfortable feeling at the pit of your stomach: more sales, opportunities, and more money to invest in yourself and your business.
So I’m going to share some of my favorite networking secrets that I’ve used over the last 18 years.
- Show Up! – Sounds easy, but it is not. Ignore that inner voice that tells you to go home or makes up a silly excuse to stay home. I know the choice between your cozy house and a room full of strangers is a hard one to make, but trust me it is so worth it. Think of networking like jumping into a pool. The water is crazy cold at first, then it becomes warm and toasty. Give yourself time to warm up!
- Research, Research, Research! – The more I know, the more confident I feel about going. Before I attend any networking event I consider several factors: who is sponsoring the event, who are the expected attendees, and how long the event will last. I use this information to see if I know a fellow attendee, an employee of the sponsor, or if someone I need to connect with will be there.
- Keep A List of Talking Points to Avoid Idle Small Talk – I like to have a list of facts and questions in my mind to use for engaging with fellow attendees. This is my usual go-to strategy for always having something to say in a conversation because I hate random small talk. My list usually consists of 2-4 tidbits or 3 opening questions about current events, the host, or relevant business topic. As a result, I have intelligent and thoughtful questions or statements at my disposal to keep the conversation going.
- Partner Up with a Friend – Networking can be fun when you bring a professional, like-minded friend along. Your friend can work one side of the room while you work another side. If they meet someone you should meet, they can make a quick intro to the person and you can do the same for them. That way everyone wins.
- Follow Up! – About 24-48 hours after each event, I send a quick note or call to everyone I connected with. Normally, I invite them to lunch or coffee to continue our conversation. Then, I add their business card to my CamCard app and my CRM (customer relationship management) spreadsheet. Since Introverts are pros at building 1:1 relationships, use this skill to your benefit. If you skip this step, you can lose opportunities and major coin!
Overall, networking can be highly rewarding and can result in more clients, a collaboration with other business owners, and referrals. Lastly, check out your local Meetups and start putting your face in front of the right people that can positively impact your business.
Charique L. Richardson, MBA is the founder of Digital Innovation Media Group (DIMG). We specialize in web design and social media marketing for licensed professionals and established businesses. You can request a free consultation for web design and/or social media marketing at www.digitalinnovationmg.com/contact.