Networking is a valuable activity if you are looking to meet new contacts, develop new business relationships and boost your professional profile.
But not everybody enjoys networking – talking to strangers, promoting yourself and socialising in large groups can be especially difficult for introverted people.
However, as strategy consultant and executive coach, Devora Zack, explains in her book Networking for People Who Hate Networking, the networking “rules” that apply to extroverts don’t necessarily apply to everybody else. Instead Devora encourages people to capitalise on their strengths and tailor their own unique networking styles.
Here are a few tips Devora offers in her book for managers who hate networking:
1. Go with a pal
There’s no reason why you have to embark on a networking adventure alone – if you go with a friend who is also new to the networking scene, you can encourage each other to meet new people and report back to one another throughout the event for support.
2. Volunteer at the event
As Devora puts it so aptly in her book, free floating through a room can be a fast track to free-floating anxiety, especially when you find it challenging speaking to strangers. An easy solution is to volunteer at the event as a helper – your official role will give you confidence and help you feel like you belong.
3. Arrive early
If socialising in large groups makes you uneasy, there’s nothing worse than walking solo into a large room packed full of people. Avoid this scenario by arriving early and familiarising yourself with a smaller, cosier group.
4. Get in line
Don’t like standing around without a group, but find it hard to break into new circles? Join a line, any line – for example, at the bar or at the buffet. Then you can start conversations with your fellow line mates in a more comfortable setting. Plus, finishing the line gives you a natural and friendly conversation closer.
5. Talk to staff
If you’re conscientious of standing alone, it’s also useful to speak with staff, like event organisers, waiters or bar attendees. It gives you the chance to be gracious, look confident and it gives you something to do.
6. Be an open target
Try to look as approachable as possible with your body language and expression. It’s also helpful if you congregate in areas where you can easily meet new people – for example, standing-only tables. Set yourself up at a standing-only table with a drink and some food, and be open to other people joining you.
7. Focus on others
Many professionals avoid networking because they don’t feel comfortable talking about themselves. But you don’t have to! Direct thoughtful questions at the people you meet, inquire about their work and show you genuinely care about what they have to say. This technique will help you build relationships and will definitely make people like you more.
Want to put Devora’s tips to the test? AIM regularly holds business networking events all around Australia – the next one is coming up on Wednesday 21 May in Adelaide, where we will be hosting Networking: Pure & Simple at The Gallery.
Devora Zack is an internationally recognised and highly acclaimed expert in the field of leadership development. Her book Networking for People Who Hate Networking has been translated into 11 languages and spent time on the Amazon best-seller list.