How to Network Like a Pro, Even as as Introvert
As an introvert, it’s easy to have a bad case of FOMO after seeing beautiful photos from an in-person event you were dying to go to…
But at the same time, you decided not to go to the event because of #AllTheAnxiety.
Trust me, you are not alone!
Even though I run two businesses and have a team of people working with me, I still struggle to show up as my best self at in-person events.
It’s a lot easier for me to make connections online than it is for me to make them face-to-face. And sometimes it’s more enjoyable too since I can do it from my bed with a sleep mask on
But conferences, masterminds, and retreats can be an incredible place to learn from influencers, connect with other entrepreneurs, and build strong relationships.
There’s something special that happens when you truly “click” with someone when you’re face-to-face that just doesn’t happen from behind a screen.
As introverts, we often tell ourselves that we’re:
just not inherently good at networking
better staying in our comfort zones
not cut out for this whole entrepreneurship world
… but that isn’t true at all!
We can be just as effective at in-person networking; we just do it in a different style than our extrovert counterparts. So don’t believe the lie that you aren’t “made” for conferences and big event gatherings.
I have a few tips to help you navigate larger events like a pro, even if you identify as an introvert. After a decade of full-time entrepreneurship, I can confidently say these are tried and true tips.
Mentally prepare the night before
This step is essential for me when I go to a conference. Before attending Alt Summit, I took a few quiet moments to myself to prepare myself for the next day. Here are a few steps I took to make sure I was ready from the moment I got out of bed.
I laid the outfit I was going to wear on a nearby chair in my hotel suite so I didn’t need to change a thousand times or rethink what I packed in my suitcase.
I put a fresh stack of business cards in my purse so I’d have them at the ready when I walked into the conference the following morning. I also put snacks, makeup, and everything else I thought I may need in my bag the night before.
I went through my nightly routine before bed, which consists of skincare, all things hygiene, changing into my pajamas, and spending a few minutes reading or journaling by lamplight. I like to write affirmations and spend some time meditating before a big event so I can get myself in the right mindset.
Introverts know how necessary this mental prep time is. It can help to reduce anxiety and get yourself in the right zone to have a great day when you wake up.
Don’t try to talk to as Many People As Possible
If you share a hotel room with another friend or attendee, tell them about how you like to wind down before an event and they will often be very respectful. I’ve found that some roomies even join the pre-event ritual I have and plan to use it in the future, too!
Don’t try to talk to as many people as possible
Trying to work the room as an introvert will only deplete your energy as you start to feel the side effects of burnout. And what happens after that? You’ll feel like tearing your hair out, causing you to head back to your hotel room for a much needed facial mask and TV channel surfing while everyone is at the after party.
Instead, you can enjoy cocktails on the rooftop of the conference’s after party if you know how to conserve your energy. Only you know what true self-care looks like for you, so this is great practice for future events.
To conserve more of your energy throughout the day, I recommend choosing a few key people you want to get to know. Then you don’t stretch yourself too thin by trying to get to meet everyone in the room.
It’s more important to make one career-long connection at an in-person event than to pass around your business card to everyone in the room and make no connections.
Start the conversation
When I get nervous at an event and don’t have anyone to talk to, I remind myself to take matters into my own hands and build up the confidence to reach out to someone else.
start the Conversation
One of the best ways to start a conversation is with a genuine compliment. If I noticed someone’s handcrafted earrings or their bright colored pumps, I’ll use that as an ice breaker and ask them more questions about themselves.
The more interest you show in other people, the more interest you’ll get back. You never know if the person you’re talking to was secretly hoping that someone would talk to them, too.
Don’t be afraid to start the conversation and go to networking events without a partner in crime! Then you can spend your time meeting new people (which is the whole point!) and making a stronger connection without having to worry about someone else. You can be your own wingwoman!
Go Deeper Then small Talk
Go deeper than small talk
As introverts, we are more interested in the depth of conversation than the width. This is a superpower at conferences! Use it to your advantage.
Some conferences post a list of their attendees before the big day. If they release it, you should definitely take some time to visit each person’s website (while you lovingly stalk their Instagram feed) and see who you are most interested in meeting.
After choosing a few people and getting a mental picture for what they look like in your head, you’ll be able to walk into the conference with a mission rather than feeling like a fish out of water. It always makes me feel more comfortable going into a crowd of people when I already have people I’m intentionally looking for.
When you do find them at the event, you can bring up that you’ve been following along with their business progression and ask them questions about what they are currently working on. If they recently shared an announcement on social media of something they are launching, you’ll impress and delight them by asking about it.
You might not want to say that you Insta-stalked them enough to know what their dog’s name is or what style their house is, but you can still have a deeper conversation about what project they are working on next without the creep factor coming in!
Besides, most people don’t want to talk about sports, the weather, or their latest Netflix binge watch when they are at a conference anyway. This is the perfect time for us introverts to shine!
Bring or find a Wing- Woman
Bring or find a wing-woman
You don’t have to be an extrovert to succeed with networking, but it definitely can be easier to network at events as an extrovert. Instead of wishing you had the gift of extroversion, reframe your mindset and partner up with an extrovert!
As an extrovert, they will help you make introductions in a simple, painless way. They generally have less anxiety and fear around striking up a new conversation and approaching new groups of people.
As an introvert, you can remind the extrovert to keep the conversations focused on deeper topics and give them enough room to share their thoughts. So it’s not that one type is better the other! We both bring great traits to the table.
Be the queen of the follow-up
The connections you make at conferences are no good if you don’t have a plan for how to follow up with the people you met. After the magic of the in-person event fades away, most people forget about the connections they made if they don’t take time to connect on other platforms.
Naturally, my favorite platform for following up with conference attendees is Instagram (I mean, I did build a whole business around it!), but you can choose whatever platform fits you best.
I usually send a quick DM that looks a little something like this:
Hey [name here], it was really great meeting you at [event]! I loved talking about [conversation topic] and would love to stay in touch with how your [project they’re working on] goes. Let me know how I can help and encourage you along the way!
Easy enough, right? It doesn’t need to take all day, but this one simple gesture goes a long way. Most people don’t follow up after meeting one another so going the extra mile will really pay off. And you never know who that new connection knows!
What about if you missed people you really wanted to talk to at the event? Maybe they were talking to someone else when you passed by or you had to dip out earlier for some R&R time to keep your sanity.
It doesn’t mean those connections are lost forever! Instead, you can reach out to them on social media and get the conversation started.
You can send a simple DM or email that says:
Hey [name here], I’m so bummed that I missed you at [event]! I’d still love to learn more about you and your business if you’d like to schedule a virtual coffee chat in the next few weeks. Let me know what dates and times work for you if so. Thanks!
Following up doesn’t have to feel like rocket science. You don’t need to take a class or set dozens of timers on your phone to remind you to do it.
I usually send these follow-up messages when I am at the airport. This helps me not have to worry about it when I walk into my house after a long trip away from home. I can hardly remember to unpack my bags, much less follow up with people!
It also shows attendees that they are fresh on my mind, which never hurts when you want to stay in touch with a new connection. I cannot recommend this tip enough!
What tip are you planning to use as you prep for your next in-person event? I want to hear about it in the comment section below!