Networking For Introverts – A Survival Guide

young black people smiling and talking at networking event

For introverted entrepreneurs, working the room and pushing business visibility can be a challenge. Here are my tips for successful networking if you’re one of life’s loners.

My two businesses, legal translation and SEO, suit me very well indeed for a number of reasons. Among other things, both disciplines allow me to work alone, quietly analysing, thinking and writing. The typical preferences of an introvert.

Before continuing, a few words on the nature of introversion. This personality type has had some positive PR in the last few years, with bestselling books being written about the value of people with introverted personalities. However, saying “I am an introvert” still gets some raised eyebrows from people who think that being introverted is just another way of saying someone is anti-social – even misanthropic.

Defining introversion

WebMD provides this definition of introversion: “An introvert is a person with qualities of a personality type known as introversion, which means that they feel more comfortable focusing on their inner thoughts and ideas, rather than what’s happening externally. They enjoy spending time with just one or two people, rather than large groups or crowds”.

While this is a rather simplified definition, I feel it correctly touches on a few aspects of life as an introverted person.

Being introverted certainly doesn’t mean that I don’t like people. If I had to live in complete isolation, I’d become unhappy quite quickly. I need social contact to stay balanced and content.

However, while extroverted people are energised from interacting with other people, introverts like me are drained. After a certain time in the company of others (and particularly large groups), we introverts need to withdraw into the peace and quiet of our private alone-spaces to recharge our batteries.

Networking for introverted entrepreneurs

As I mentioned, the core activities of my two fields of business are a great match for my introverted personality. However, I don’t get to do those activities without customers and they don’t just pop up out of nowhere. I have to get out there, meet people, and make myself and my business visible to potential clients.

In short: I have to network.

Now, “networking” is a word which will make most alone-time-loving introverts catch their breath slightly. But if you want to do well in business, there is no way around it. You simply have to learn to deal with the challenges it brings for you as one of life’s natural loners.

Over the years, I have developed certain techniques and approaches which have helped me to cope with (and enjoy!) networking as an introverted person.

Here are my best tips for all introverted entrepreneurs out there!

1. When it comes to which events to attend, prioritise quality over quantity

The first rule of networking for introverts: don’t overdo it. Cramming your week with one event after another is just going to exhaust you and lead to networking burnout. A maximum of one event per week is quite enough for me.

Also: be selective about which events to attend – prioritise those that your target customers are most likely to attend and concentrate your energies on them.

2. LinkedIn is your friend

In these digital times, in-person events are far from the only way to network. Online networking platforms such as LinkedIn and Xing are excellent ways of making contacts with potential customers – as well as others within your industry for the purposes of exchanging knowledge.

The geographical reach of these platforms is much greater than in-person events, allowing you to get in touch with people around the world. And they are fabulous for introverts, as all the meeting and greeting is done in the virtual sphere. No crowded rooms to walk into, no need to put on an uncomfortable suit, no stress about trying to eat tidily while keeping a demure and professional conversation going. Hurrah!

I still find the experience of putting my knowledge out there by publishing an article on LinkedIn quite nerve-wracking (will it get any views? Will people like it? Am I going to get negative feedback?), but basically this is the ultimate in introvert-friendly forums. Make the most of it.

3. Take some down-time before the event

Take a couple of hours beforehand to relax before you go to the event. This is work too, remember, so don’t feel too bad about finishing work a bit early on a networking day to reenergise and prepare.

4. Set goals

Going into events with goals helps to soothe pre-event nerves. You could aim to talk to 5 different people, hand out at least 10 business cards, or stay until a certain time. I always find I stay at events much longer and talk to more people than I planned to because I get into the swing of things – but it helps to give yourself an out if you suddenly feel overwhelmed.

5. Secret(ion) weapons

I do not mean to be indelicate, but let’s be honest: if going into a room full of strangers makes you anxious, you are probably going to sweat more than usual. And, because “stress sweat” has a different composition than “normal” sweat, the way it reacts with the bacteria on your skin can result in unpleasant body odour.

And that’s where the trouble starts. The worry of smelling bad adds into the stress of already being in an anxiety-inducing situation, that makes you sweat even more…and before you know it, you’re in a really unpleasant vicious circle and can’t focus properly on the conversation. You’re concentrating on keeping your arms jammed down against your sides, hoping no-one will notice that you’ve become rather…pungent.

It helps to come prepared. Some people might like to wear sweat pads or an extra cotton t-shirt under their clothes to deal with the issue. Another useful tip is to take a pack of deodorant wipes with you, either in your handbag or in a pocket. If you feel uncomfortable, excuse yourself to the bathroom to freshen up. You’ll be able to head back to the party with renewed confidence.

6. The come-down

If you’re like me, then you’re going to be extremely wound up and overstimulated after a networking event – even if you’ve had a lovely time there. This feeling of being “wired” is something I don’t find at all pleasant and have to actively find ways to neutralise it if I don’t want to be tossing and turning in bed all night.

Having a cup of lavender tea, taking a warm shower or bath, eating a portion of your favourite comfort food: do whatever you need to do to return to a state of peace – or at least a state where you can get to sleep.

7. Treat yourself

Well done! By going to a networking event, you have successfully completed an introvert challenge, and deserve a little pat on the back. Maybe take the next morning off, come in later to work…or just do something nice for yourself. If you plan in these small rewards, networking becomes a pleasant routine that you associate with enjoyment and positive memories rather than anxiety and overstimulation.

Good luck with your networking efforts, fellow introverts! You can do it!

Photo by mint_images on Envato Elements

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Katharine Eyre
Gründerin von RiskPlayWin | Inhaberin & Gründerin des juristischen Übersetzungsbüros Spezialis

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