There is no need to discuss the importance of networking. Whether we admit it or not, but we all know that it is crucial to network with other people, to work together on projects, to exchange ideas. We all know that with valuable contacts, we have a higher chance of success than sitting alone in our office staring at a screen.
The courageous ones do it; the shyer ones seek either excuses or, ideally, solutions and support so that they can approach others more openly and confidently.

This blog post is for those shy and introverted professionals amongst you who want to improve their networking skills.
Before I get started, I’d like to point out that it’s a misconception that introverts should focus on online networking. That would mean that before the age of the Internet, introverts were not able to socialize at all.

Warm-up with small steps

Comfort zone

In the beginning, I recommend to practice networking in a familiar environment: perhaps at the next birthday party or an after-work drink with your colleagues.
If you see familiar people standing together, go to them and toast with them. Listen first. Maybe you can think of a question about the topic, or perhaps you like what you hear. Ask your question or comment.
If you hardly know anybody, then you can ask the party host or a trusted person to introduce you to the other guests.

Small Talk

Some people say they hate small talk because it’s so superficial.
Be careful, avoid this misconception, please! We need small talk at the beginning of an encounter to have following profound conversations – in a way as an introduction.
Please don’t be afraid of small talk. With small talk, you can easily step up the conversation: perhaps you comment on the buffet “The food is so delicious”, or “How do x (the party host) and you know each other?” and depending on the topic and interest, deepening the conversation.

Ready? Go. Professional Networking Events

Prepare yourself

Consider beforehand what kind of people you want to meet and why. Are there any topics on which you would like to exchange ideas? Are there topics on which you have an opinion or areas where you could contribute your expertise to help others?
Take also your business cards with you.

Be on time

If you are timid, then you better arrive at the venue on time and benefit from the fact that there are only a few guests. So it will be easier for you to get used to the surroundings and to get into a conversation at the drinks counter, for instance.

Talk to the host

Especially at the beginning of the event, the host has more time and possibly will approach you and welcome you. Take this opportunity to introduce yourself and tell him that you are very excited to be at this event for the first time and, therefore, unfortunately, don’t know anyone. A good host will prove his hosting qualities by not only talking to you but also introducing you to other guests and making sure you feel good.

You arrive later and don’t know anybody

At some events, you will get a list of participants at the entrance. This list is a perfect tool for you to get an overview of interesting or familiar people you would like to talk to.

Get yourself a nice drink, then walk through the room and watch the people. I know you’ll probably be nervous, but don’t forget to smile at people on eye contact. Who do you know? Which people make a friendly and open impression?Again, don’t forget to smile a little when you face people. Find a sympathetic group of people, go to them and say hello. Ask them how they found the previous presentation, or whether they often come to this event, and of course, introduce yourself.

Congratulations! You are an excellent Networker

You’re never the only shy networker in a networking event

Don’t forget that just like you, there are always other people who are little afraid and shy at networking events, too. If you see a person standing alone in a corner, go to them and say hello. Probably, you’re in the same boat.

Show your interest

You are a super shy person who doesn’t like to be the center of attention? No Problem – Oh, what am I saying? Congratulations! You are an excellent Networker because you prefer to listen carefully to others instead of speaking about yourself for hours on end.

By listening actively and keeping eye contact, you keep the conversation alive; the other person feels appreciated and accepted. Ask short questions in between. Also, have the courage to express your opinion on the topic. In this way, you can conduct a conversation in an easy-going manner that meets your expectations and does not remain superficial.

Connect, connect, connect

Networking means more than just small talk and exchanging business cards. It’s about connecting topics, ideas, and people. It is about creating added value for oneself and others. Identify interrelations and become a valuable hub.

Here are two typical situations.

  • You have successfully started a conversation, and a person you already know comes by. Introduce this person to your conversation partners and bring them into the discussion. “Hello, Anna, nice to see you again.– May I introduce you to Anna? I met her at the entrance. She has an exciting job …”
    There you are, you have made your first connection with complete self-confidence.
  • You are talking to someone who is facing a challenge in a particular matter. You realize that your best friend or neighbor happens to be working in this area. Again you can shine as an introverted and helpful networker: “I know an expert in this area. I’ll send both of you an email and introduce you to each other. Maybe he can help you.

Please also keep in mind to follow up on your connections. Send them one or two days after the event a message, refer to the inspiring conversation you had, ask a further question, or give a tip.
Be creative, if you want to stay in touch.

Networking requires three things to succeed

  • Exercise, exercise, exercise
  • Courage and self-confidence that comes with the time and experience.
  • A genuine interest in other people and the intention not only to take but also to give and to share.

Now I hope you can benefit from some of my tips and slowly but surely enjoy your way of networking as an introverted super networker.

If you have further questions, please use the comment field or send me an email if you wish to do it more privately.

Best of success & wonderful networking experiences

Azadeh Eshaghi

This article was originally published on the community page of Büro Züri, powered by Zürcher Kantonalbank