Effective Networking Tips for Extroverts

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Most networking articles I read are geared toward two types of people:

1. Introverts

2. Everyone else

The article authors assume everyone is exactly the same and they don't have any problems talking to people, or that introverts need extra help getting through an uncomfortable experience.

There's not much out there for extroverts though. Outgoing people don't get much in the way of advice and strategies for effective networking (although Dave wrote a great piece here), but that's because we typically don't need much. Most extroverts are those "never met a stranger" type people who can strike up a conversation with anyone at any time. My kids used to be both amazed and frustrated when I would just start chatting with people randomly no matter where we were.

So here are five networking tips for you outgoing people who don't otherwise hear about how to harness all that energy effectively.

1. Rein it in, you maniac! 

Too many people get hyped up and go a little nuts at a networking event, like a toddler on caffeine. I don't know if it's sensory overload or the excitement of being with so many people, but some people really do try to work the room — the entire room — at a networking event.

They're always on, the life of the party, racing to meet as many people as they can. They shuffle out business cards like a Vegas poker dealer, and they think it's not a successful meeting if they don't walk away with at least 20 cards. (Who they'll email that afternoon and then wonder why they never hear back from any of them.)

Just calm down. Relax. Take a deep breath. Now take another. And another. Feeling light-headed yet? Good, now move more slowly and deliberately, this isn't a race. If you believe in the serendipity of networking, you know you'll meet the right person at the right time. Hell, you probably whipped past them 20 minutes ago, so slow down and allow time for relationships to develop.

2. More meetings, not more people 

If you want to meet more people, then go to more meetings, don't try to cram more people into fewer meetings. When I first started networking as part of my job, I went to three to five networking events every week. Most of them were held at 7:30 AM, but a few Chamber of Commerce events were held in the evenings. And there were more than a few times I went to a morning event and ended the day at an evening event.

One thing I noticed, especially since several of the networking events were part of a larger organization called Rainmakers, was that I was seeing several of the same people more than once. I would get to know them at meetings, and have coffee with them later. This helped me figure out who I could refer others to, and figure out how they could help each other. And because I saw them more than once, I didn't have to scramble to meet them.

If you want to meet more people, don't try to cram in more people. Go to a couple more events each month. If you only attend one meeting per month, going to a second will literally double your opportunities. If you're going to two, double it again and go to four per month, or once a week. Just don't spend all your time at networking events, because that's not where the real relationship building happens. That happens over lunch or coffee.

3. Limit yourself to two people

If you really want to challenge yourself, limit yourself to only meeting and talking with two people at your next networking meeting. That doesn't mean only introducing yourself to two people — it's inevitable you're going to get introduced to a small handful of people while you're there.

But while introverts are often told to "try to meet two people," I want you to limit yourself to only two people. These are people you talk with for several minutes, trying to get to know them better, and having a basic conversation about what it is that you both do.

These are the people to create deeper, more meaningful relationships with, which you can do over coffee or lunch in a period of months. But you're only going to find them if you spend several minutes with them at a networking event getting to know them, rather than zipping around trying to meet everyone in the room.

4. Make it your goal to help others FIRST

One of the founding principles of Business Networking International (BNI) is Giver's Gain. That means people who give are the ones who gain. In other words, if I focus my attention on helping other people first, rather than trying to find my own opportunities, I will gain much more in return.

Call it karma, call it blessings, call it the Universe smiling upon me. Whatever you call it, more will be visited upon you if you help other people achieve their goals first.

As you help more people, you'll find more opportunities coming your way, whether it's someone you helped, or even someone who was helped by someone else who was helped by someone you helped the year before.

When you're at a networking meeting, ask people what they do, who they would like to meet, and if there's anything you can do for them. Introduce them to the people who fit that bill. Hopefully they're at the same event, but if they're not, make an email introduction on their behalf that day.

5. Leave early

I'm one of those people who will stay at an event until I'm one of the last people there. It's a great way to meet interesting people and to get to know the organizers a little better. Plus, you can have better and deeper conversations in the quiet of the day.

On the other hand, you don't want to burn yourself out. After about six months of 3 – 5 networking events every week, two hours per event, I got burned out. I had to take a few weeks off from all networking meetings just to recharge my batteries. When I came back, I started leaving on time, even if it was just to save myself 30 minutes per meeting.

It helped in a couple of ways. For one thing, I saved anywhere from an hour to nearly three hours per week. For another, I didn't get burned out the second time around. Third, it actually improved my desirability a bit. Just like that episode of Seinfeld where George Costanza learned to leave on a high note, I found that if I wasn't the last one there, people were more interested in talking to me before I left. It wasn't a big game changer, but I found that people started seeking me out as I was on my way out the door.

It wasn't a matter of making myself scarce, it was a matter of limiting my availability so people needed to get me before I was gone. When they realized my time was my commodity and not theirs, it became more valuable to them.

Networking may be a numbers game, but it's not a competition. Rather than racing around, trying to meet as many people as you can, be strategic, be selective, and for God's sake, slow down! Don't try to meet as many people as you can, concentrate on meeting two people and leaving a bit early. Extroverts often create their own networking problems, but by slowing down and being more deliberate, they can avoid needlessly spinning their wheels.

Erik Deckers is the president of Pro Blog Service, a content marketing agency with clients throughout the United States. He is also the co-author of Branding Yourself, No Bullshit Social Media, and The Owned Media Doctrine. Erik has been blogging since 1997, and a newspaper humor columnist since 1994. He has written several radio and stage plays, and numerous business articles. Erik was the Spring 2016 writer-in-residence at the Jack Kerouac House in Orlando, FL, and now serves on their board of directors.

Thank you for sharing.

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