It’s easy to get sick of the idea of networking. Everywhere you turn, someone is talking about it as a way to generate leads. It’s mentioned in blogs. It’s discussed at business meetings. Even nationally acclaimed business magazines write articles about it.
Why is it so popular?
Perhaps — because it works.
If you’re a wallflower, the poster child for introversion, you would probably rather use some other means of generating leads for your business. As an introvert, you’re fine with one-on-one conversations, but the idea of working a room with your hand outstretched, looking for a friendly face, freaks you out. But the thing is that even shy people can engage in networking events by participating in interactive feeds in a conference app like DoubleDutch.
If you take the Myers Brigg personality test, you will discover that there are many benefits to being an introvert. You tend to be reflective and you have many close personal friends. On the other hand, you may need to get in on the networking game to further your career or business.
Here are seven ways to ease into networking:
- Set some goals.
Goals will give you a good reason to start networking. They will motivate you to take action. Decide to make 2016 your best year. Since the year is only in its first quarter, there are still plenty of things you can do to get pumped up for 2016. For instance, you could set a personal goal to take more risks and a business goal to get a certain number of leads per month.
- Rehearse social skills.
It may be hard for you to share personal information with new people, something that may go as far back as your first day in school. As a result, you find small talk difficult and establishing rapport with strangers almost impossible. Practice small talk with family and friends until the idea of chatting with strangers is no longer intimidating. While you may never get to the point where you’re thrilled to be in a room packed with animated strangers, it’s something that you’ll be able to handle with poise.
- Review common questions.
When people meet for the first time, they usually ask each other some common questions to break the ice.
Practice asking and practice responding to common questions like:
- · Where do you work?
- · What do you do there?
- · What type of business is it?
- · How did you start your career?
- · What do you enjoy doing when you’re not at work?
- Go with a friend.
Going to networking events with a friend will make it easier. Why not invite a colleague to go with you to your next conference? You may be surprised to find out how much fun a conference can be when you have someone to travel with and share meal breaks with.
- Befriend others.
It’s reasonable to assume that not everyone who goes to a conference is an extrovert. There will be many fellow introverts too. Instead of waiting to be asked questions, you can be the person who asks questions and makes introductions. When you find people who wander around looking lost, looking for a seat at a table, be the one who stands up and invites them to join you at your table.
- Distract yourself by becoming a good student.
Besides meeting people, you may sit in on lectures, presentations, or other group learning events. By paying attention to what you can learn, it will take away the pressure of having to be social throughout the event.
- Learn listening skills.
Many extroverts enjoy having someone who listens to them. Being social doesn’t always mean that you have to talk. You can listen quite a bit and will fit right in. Many famous people who have a reputation for being great conversationalists are actually just really good listeners.
Fast Company suggests the following five listening skills:
- · Be present.
- · See the situation from the other person’s perspective.
- · Acknowledge that you’ve heard the speaker’s key points.
- · Practice active listening by asking questions to clarify what was said.
- · Develop curiosity and find out more about the speaker’s experience when they tell you a personal story.
- Communicate with body language.
Sometimes you can use your body language to communicate. Try to avoid folding your arms across your chest or looking away. Instead, try smiling and nodding. Your body language communicates if you are enjoying the conversation.
Results Are Often Subtle
Instead of wondering if networking is working or not, focus on the benefits in personal growth you’re experiencing. After all, by learning how to network, you are challenging yourself to go beyond your personal comfort zone and pushing your business to new levels.
Results in networking are often hard to measure because they usually come in an unexpected way. It’s rarely about how many cards you hand out or receive or about a noticeable increase in your monthly sales. Instead, it’s often more subtle. You might learn something important for your career during a conversation, be invited to an interview or event, or get a referral.
Do you have any networking tips? Let us know in the comments below!