How to Network Like an Extrovert (Even if You're an Introvert)
The word networking can elicit joy or evoke fear. Some people are born with the gift of the gab and can work a room with grace and style. For many others, schmoozing requires practice, coaching, and a lot of courage. If you’re a natural networker, pay it forward by helping others connect and sending them this article.
If you’re not-so-confident working the room, don't stay silent. You can improve your skills and build fabulous new relationships with these five tips. Take our advice and get out of your head, out of your office, and into the rooms where decisions are made, deals are done, and strangers become clients, employers, collaborators, and friends.
[Related: 5 Tips To Build A Powerful Network]
1) Choose events and organizations that matter to you.
Start where you’re motivated to meet new people with common professional or personal interests. What are you passionate about? What type of people are you most comfortable with? This could be your alumni group, community organization, engineering club, running group, or charitable fundraiser.
Attend an event with an activity you enjoy. A cooking class, tennis game, or book club will give you something specific to do and talk about. You’ll find that networking isn't the horrible chore you expect, but rather a way to make new friends, learn something new, build critical career skills, spend your time in meaningful and enjoyable ways, and build your confidence.
2) Find the right time.
Good timing makes for good networking. It’s best to network when you’re at your best and can maintain your energy and a positive attitude.
If you’re a morning lark, schedule breakfast meetings. If you’re a night owl, meet after work. Time limits are also helpful if you’re not a natural chatterbox. For example, give yourself thirty minutes to meet three interesting people at a cocktail party. Once you reach your goal, you can relax, up your goals and keep networking, or leave and reward yourself with an activity you enjoy.
3) Prepare your topics of conversations.
Prepare ice-breakers and conversation topics by reading up on relevant news and industry publications. Popular culture is an easy way to start a conversation: Which movies have you seen recently? What are your best restaurant recommendations on the west side? Think of yourself as a researcher or talk show host. Here are some ideas:
- Ask someone for their opinion on something you can both relate to: What do you think of the speaker?
- Ask for advice: What are your favorite technology tools? What other networking events do you recommend?
- Ask professional questions: What are your biggest business challenges this quarter?
- Ask personal questions: What is your favorite vacation spot?
- Blend the personal and professional: How did you get into this field? What advice can you offer someone new to the industry?
There are often overlaps between personal, professional, and general topics. This makes it even easier to find common interests and make your small talk meaningful.
[Related: 5 Reasons Why Online Networking Rocks]
4) Keep a positive attitude and an open mind.
Sometimes you need to stay on-topic and focused. Other times, the best strategy is to simply go with the flow and let the conversation lead you. You can discover incredible opportunities from an unplanned conversation.
The more you practice, the better you’ll get at networking in any situation. Even if you don’t think of yourself as a natural networker right now, when you start to absorb and apply this advice, you’ll soon become an expert at chatting up a storm anywhere, instead of getting stuck in an elevator talking about the weather.
5) Practice your skills.
You can’t learn to network just by reading about it in this article. Like tennis, dance, a new language, or any other art form or skill set, you need to go beyond the theoretical knowledge and practice your skills in real-life situations.
Go ahead and register for that awesome conference, organize a social lunch with your committee members, pick up the phone, and schedule coffee with the new head of marketing.
Now, turn off your technology and go get connected in real life!
Deena Baikowitz is the Chief Networking Officer with Fireball Network. She has experience in business coaching and consulting, career coaching, marketing, branding, workshop facilitation, program development and delivery, speaker services, writing, editing, and public relations.
Have more questions? Follow up with the expert herself.
Chief Networking Officer
My favorite expression is "I know someone you should meet. Let me introduce you." The best business and career opportunities are created when people come together, and I have developed my career by helping professionals connect. Networking, branding, marketing, communication, presentation and leadership skills are essential career tools; and they are the foundation of my expertise and my services. I develop and deliver innovative and interactive coaching, training and consulting programs to entrepreneurs, executives and emerging... Continue Reading