Networking for the Shy Guy.
By Donnavan Finlay. Co-Founder of Guyding Principals.
I was at a networking event recently and noticed something. I was meeting new people in the community and a young man got my attention. Not for all the right reasons but all the wrong. He looked out-of-place. Completely overwhelmed by the situation. Basically me 15 years ago. He clearly had no idea what he needed to do. I felt sorry for the kid and went over to talk to him where he was standing alone.
He told me that he was new to the event and an aspiring entrepreneur. During the conversation I realized that he is determined to be successful but had no idea or guidance to get what he so desires. I then realized that he is most likely not alone. It took me ages to get better at networking when I was younger. As with this kid, I had no one to show me the ropes at the start. People kept on telling me I had to network, but no one told me how it should be done.
I introduced him to a couple of my friends for him to feel a bit more at ease. He seemed a bit more confident by the end of the night.
The following week I offered to help him with some techniques I had found to work for me. We worked on the techniques and I am glad to say that he made great progress at the next event. He made some fantastic new contacts and people who can help him put his dream of being an entrepreneur in place.
Following are some tips on networking for an introvert.
Manage your expectations.
You need to remember to make realistic expectation. Plan ahead and set a goal of making maybe two or three key connections. Try not to get overwhelmed by the event and focus on your goal. Once you have achieved your goal, you should leave. Avoid over staying your welcome. If you stay too long you can also get tired and it will turn into a bad experience. You will then lack motivation for the next event.
Get a list of possible attendants.
If possible I would suggest getting a list of the attendants. Reason is that you can then have a look at the people who you would like to meet. This will usually be the people in your field of interest. You can learn some valuable lessons from someone who has experience in that sphere.
If you feel confident you can make that connection before. Maybe send an e-mail to that person and ask if he can spare some time to talk to you about whatever it is you may want to know. Making a connection via e-mail first can break the ice for the conversation to follow.
Consider volunteering at networking events. This will put you in touch with some people who have been doing it for a while. Someone there may be able to put you in contact with some serious key players. If a key person has to be driven around, you should volunteer. This will give you some alone time that is priceless.
Other charity events are also good for you to volunteer. This will help you be at ease with people around you and help you meet new people. You will be exposed to all types of personalities. Networking is all about meeting new people, and this is great practice.
End with a Plan to Action.
When you end any important conversation with a person of interest, ask for a follow-up discussion or meeting. If you ask for a follow up meeting you may be lucky and get to meet the person at a less crowded environment. These are the times you will really learn some valuable lessons. An e-mail contact or phone number is also good. Some people might not have time to meet in person or even live in another city.
My one mentor used to go for coffee at the same place every workday at the same time. We would meet up some days and spend maybe 15 minutes together. This was perfect for me. Those 15 minutes in the mornings taught me some great lessons.
Bring a Wingman.
Taking a wingman to a networking event will be great. It will give you at least one contact there and this person can help to keep you focused. The person might also be able to introduce you to his/her contacts. Avoid clinging to that person too much. Once the introductions are made you will have to keep the conversation on your own.
Finding a good wingman should not be overlooked. If I had to choose one tip that helped me the most, it will be this one.
As an introvert you will have to get used to meeting new people. Set yourself a target per day on meeting new people. Strike up a conversation at a coffee bar. Meet someone new at work and make some small talk. Keep focused and take note of what works and what does not.
Now that you have some tips on improving your skills you should go out and try them. They have worked for me and for the people I have assisted. There is nothing wrong with being a bit shy and you should not let that keep you down. At the end of the day your success is up to you, and only you.
Do you have any conversation ice breakers that have worked for you in the past? Please list them in comments so our other readers can see them.