Updated: Oct 30, 2019
I am not going to lie or sugarcoat...but I really do not enjoy business networking. The people are generally very nice, but it’s painful in a social way. I am a Myers-Briggs classic Extrovert and a Clifton StrengthsFinder Communication® and WOO® (the talent theme of Winning Others Over). I am a natural at working a room, leading teams in workshops/programs and feeling comfortable in almost every given social situation, but I do not like business networking. Before I retired into a consulting business, almost every job required networking at some level because I was a senior level administrator and it was expected. Thinking back, I didn’t enjoy it then either. Shaking hands and small talk are not my favorite things.
So here I am again, as a small business soloprenuer. This is the only way to meet others in my local community. It is a way to put a face to a product name. It gets me from behind my computer and out of the house. I have always had serious reservations about this one particular type of social situation. There are times when you think to yourself...is it just me? What was it about business networking? I looked for unscientific, qualitative data from others like me and my social media support team did not disappoint. So no, from what they shared, it’s not just me. Ironically, as I researched this topic on the inter-web...there was a ton of advice for Introverts who dislike networking including “take an Extrovert with you!” Seriously?! Apparently, Extroverts are the social support crutch...but what about us?
As I thought about this and with help from my fellow E's and WOO’s, here is some advice on how to make business and social networking a better experience.
1. Take an Introvert. I jest, but not really. Actually think and act more like an Introvert. Introverts do not give their energy away. Extroverts are so giving of their energy that it becomes draining. By the end of the event, there is nothing left in the social tank. Be judicious with your energy. Instead of working the whole room, make an effort to meet 5 people. Do not rush this. Quietly assess the room and make note of who you really want to talk to. Channel your introverted qualities.
2. Have a plan for the event. Set a goal for what you want to accomplish. Networking, unlike a family wedding reception, is usually a room full of people you do not know. Perfect your elevator speech so that it is succinct. Extroverts and WOOs have this incredible tendency to story tell and engage...but the real goal of networking is to spread the message of your business. So prepare your elevator pitch. Not the high rise, 70 story Manhattan skyscraper kind...the 30 seconds or less of who you are and what you do kind. It will save your energy and help you keep some in the tank for others in the room. As much as you want to share, not everyone cares...and that is the sad truth.
3. Make the event more authentic and more personable. Networking can seem very disingenuous which is hard for someone who really enjoys getting to know people. Try to find the commonalities. Strive to be person centric first, business second. Start with, “Tell me about you.” instead of “What do you do?” You will find that people love to talk about themselves. You get to do more listening and less exhaustive talking. Finding the commonalities of what they share makes it easier to talk about your business. In addition to WOO, I also have Connectedness® and Relator® in my CliftonStrengths Top 10, so doing this makes my interaction more enjoyable.
4. Don’t be the last to leave. Go and accomplish your goal of meeting new people and sharing your business message. Then leave. There is no reason to be the last out of the room. The Extroverted/WOO way would want you to stay and linger, but there is no need to. When you get home be sure to connect to those that you met with an email or LinkedIn request. Build the relationship after your initial contact.
And just for the record, there is nothing wrong if you see us not talking. We are not mad or angry. We are probably just thinking of all the things we would rather be doing.
What strategies do you employ? Be sure to leave your tips and comments for others.