How an Introvert Can Network Without Going Crazy

I’m an introvert. I can get up in front of a room of strangers and make a presentation without breaking a sweat. But put me in that same room and ask me to network one-on-one and you’ll see me looking for the nearest exit.

Photo by Chloe Smith.

Photo by Chloe Smith.

I find meeting people for the first time incredibly draining, both physically and mentally. So in the past, I usually did one of two things when I attended a networking event:

1) Headed to a corner.
2) Found someone I already knew.

I suspect I’m not the only introvert who feels this way, and it’s obviously not the ideal way to network. But as a small business owner, it’s not really an option for me to avoid it completely, so I’ve found ways to cope. Hopefully these five tactics will help other introverts who need to network, too.

1. Plot your route ahead of time.

It sounds a bit silly, but I find that my anxiety drops quite a bit if I remove that initial uncertainty of knowing how I’ll get to an event. By figuring out my route, I’ve removed one less worry. Plus, it gives me a sense of what time I need to leave in order to arrive without feeling rushed.

2. Take a look at the attendee list.

Many online event sites (e.g., Eventbrite) will list the people who’ve said they’re attending. Taking a look at the list will help you assess both the benefit of a particular event and give you time to prepare if you want to meet a specific person. I find that knowing in advance who I might meet goes a long way to helping with the jitters.

3. Set at least one goal for each event.

One of the most frustrating things about my early networking was how random and unsuccessful it proved. Obviously my heading to a corner or only talking to people I knew didn’t help. So I tested a theory. I started asking myself before each event, “What one thing will make this event successful?” It may have been something as simple as getting an introduction or something bigger, like scheduling a meeting. Whatever the goal, I noticed that events went more smoothly when I decided what needed to happen for me to feel like the event was worth the effort.

4. If nametags are offered, grab one.

Yes, they’re a bit dorky and they rarely stick for long, but nametags help with one of my biggest networking frustrations: noise. Often it can be very difficult to hear people, so it’s easy to miss names. It also saves you from introducing yourself every time. Without fail, a few people (probably extroverts) will come up to me and say, “Hi Britt” followed by their own introduction. Successful networking doesn’t always require that you start the conversation and a nametag can help smooth the way.

5. Give yourself a break.

I can’t be “on” for an entire event. It’s just too uncomfortable. So I give myself a break about every 30 minutes. I’ll find a deserted corner or someone I already know and just be quiet for a few minutes. Knowing that I have the option of breaking away for a bit keeps me going at an event for at least a couple of hours.

Being an introvert doesn’t mean you can’t be successful at networking. It does mean that you you may need to work harder to get the results you want. Whether you use my suggested tactics or define new ones, it’s time to build a networking strategy that makes these events feel doable on your terms.

If you’re an introvert, what tactics have you adopted to make networking easier? Leave a comment below.


Archive guest post by Britt Raybould. This post originally appeared on New Networking.