I’ve always considered myself to be an introvert, but a few years ago when I heard the term, “introverted extrovert,” I thought this fit my personality very well. I excel in social situations if I have a close circle of friends around me and sort of know others in the room, but if you ask me to go into a roomful of people I don’t know, my spidey-sense kicks in and I find myself withdrawing.
All the time, people are surprised to hear I’m an introvert, I guess based on working in PR and marketing. Let’s face it: most of the time, I’d rather be sitting on the side of a mountain, alone, working, than having to go to yet another networking event to meet prospects, shake hands and smile.
That’s just the way it is, and I have come to embrace my personality. Yes, I force myself to go beyond my fear of meeting someone new, so I DO think that in some situations, I am more social. That’s why I say I’m an introverted extrovert. If you’re the same way, then here are a few tips I’ve come up with for networking:
- Go With Someone You Know – You can lean on a friend or colleague in case your fears kick in. I’m not saying to use your companion as a crutch; it’s just more comfortable to go into a networking situation knowing at least one other person. You might think about going with someone who is extraverted, but I don’t think that’s entirely necessary.
- Limit Your Events – If being in social situations is uncomfortable, then limit the number of events you attend in any given month. A good rule of thumb for me is no more than two events a month.
- Go for Quality Over Quantity – If you’ve ever been to a chamber of city event, you know there are people there who are only interested in handing out their business card and little else. It’s a numbers game, but the chances are very slim that anyone is making an impact. We know it’s the more meaningful conversations that matter.
- Find Your Best-Fit Networking Meetings – Not every group is going to make sense. For example, I have been a guest more than one time at BNI, which is a very worthy group for those who are getting something out of it. However, more than once, I found myself in a room of 100 people who were not good prospects for my business. Insurance reps are great people, but an independent rep isn’t going to bring on a firm like ours for PR and marketing.
- You May Have to Spend Some Money – Most of the groups I’ve been in, and attended, have been those that require a membership or dues because attendance and results/success are taken more seriously than Meetups, for example, that are free. Note: I’m not saying to break the bank; I once was treasurer for a international communications organization in which the executive director belonged to a group that charged $999 each month in dues. Trying to be a good steward of the funds, I asked her what she got out of the group and what the results were. Other than saying, “I’ve met some interesting people,” she couldn’t tell me. Yet, that’s not the case with all dues-paid groups.
What I’m leading to for the introverted extrovert – or anyone who has a fear of networking – is to 1) ensure the networking journey is easier by making it a more comfortable environment; you can’t guarantee you’ll be comfortable each time, but you can try and try again, 2) find your best reasons to attend events and 3) measure your success: what did you get out of it and is it worth going again?