Networking for introverts and novices

7 easy, free ideas for better small business networking

Whether you’re uncomfortable in groups, new to an organization or struggling with an introverted nature that saps your energy when you’re around other people, there are easy ways to grow your reach, credibility and business prosperity at gatherings.

Most people misunderstand the terms introvert and extrovert. Simply put, extroverts are energized by being around other people. Introverts recharge when alone.

No matter your nature, everyone finds some facet of networking uncomfortable.

Part of the problem is, contrary to popular belief, networking is not selling. Think about it. Do you cringe when that hardcore promoter or guy with a speed dating mindset approaches you at a business gathering? Will you buy from him?

9 non-salesy tips for small business networking success  

1. Speak

Being a featured speaker is an easy way to gain credibility at an event. Why not pitch a presentation to the organizers of the national meetings you plan to attend? Not only will you (usually) reduce or eliminate participation costs, but you might get paid.

Know your stuff and prepare your comments carefully to ensure those listening leave impressed. That’s not difficult if you’re willing to devote the time necessary to understand what solutions and approaches will best resonate with your audiences’ issues.

The beauty of being a featured speaker is you don’t have to work a room to find people to talk to. Everyone comes to you.

2. Listen

The most memorable conversationalists are the best listeners. It’s easier for most introverts to ask probing questions than to talk about themselves (and a better way to sell). Everyone learns more about what a prospect needs – and how to couch comments to solve the challenge – by encouraging another to talk. You can build instant rapport and a stable of great referral agents by listening and showing you care.

7 easy, free ideas for better small business networking3. Seek to give not get

Don’t’ go to a networking event trying to sell. Instead, identify respected referral agents (Pareto’s Principal or 80/20 rule applies) to discover what’s important to them. Mail a newspaper clipping, refer a prospect or send a thank you note mentioning an interest gathered during your dialog. That’s memorable.

Resist the temptation to ask for referrals from another – send leads first. You’ll be remembered when a prospect needs what you offer. It’s human nature to reciprocate.

4. Dress sharp – or different

This is important when you’re new to a group or trying to build credibility with centers-of-influence. Your attire should reflect group norms, stepped up just a little bit. You don’t want to wear a suit at a conference for plumbers, but a clean, crisp shirt with a logo can make you shine.

I attended many national NAWBO meetings over the years. Lois Goetz (I still remember her name – see how that works?) always wore hats. No one else did. She wore them well.

5. Get, don’t push business cards

Do you roll your eyes when someone you don’t know is shoving a business card in your hand before a conversation starts? Have your own professionally designed cards, but strive to get more than you give. It’s a lot more effective for small business marketing.

Jot a quick note on the back of the card (wait until your contact leaves) to remember for follow up (snail mail is better).

6. Get your own hotel room

This tip is for introverts especially, but important for everyone. What you’ll save doubling up on a room will be lost in the costs of down time being dictated by others.

If business building is your primary conference focus, use evenings to go through business cards, identify tomorrow’s want-to-meet targets and write while your mind is fresh. Capturing ideas, roughing up content for blogs and crafting media outreach strategies is best done onsite.

Introverts will also need this time alone to recharge. Without it, full focus tomorrow will be difficult.

7. Decline the social dinners

There’s always someone organizing a gang non-event meal. Usually, these are too crowded for meaningful conversation (often at an outrageously priced restaurant where all pay equal shares, drinkers included). Few notice whether you’re there or not. Choose one night to be social, but consider using other evenings to review your material, collect your thoughts and plan strategies to capitalize on the contacts and information you gathered during the day.

8. Join a committee or a board

This is a great strategy if you want to move from the seeker to sought-after (locally too). Members of an organization gravitate toward leaders. Being a decision maker also offers regular face time with the most active members (and usually most successful business owners).

You’ll be amazed at how credible you become and how easy it is to network when with the general membership.

9. Value time

It’s important to recognize your time matters; the same holds true of the people you seek to influence. Be careful what you commit to (or how much time you waste on less important activities) because that takes away moments from other things.

Small business networking can be easy

Whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, these tactics are effective. Make your marketing easier, faster and more rewarding with smarter strategies for small business networking.

Have creative ideas for rising above the crowd? Please share below. Need help being seen above the crowd? I can help.

12 responses to “Networking for introverts and novices”

  1. Love your simple definition of the difference between the intros and extros. Having just come back from a conference, your tips really ring true. Still grinning at how eager folks were to part with their cards. I did jot down notes but not nearly enough and now I’m facing “who is this?” As for listening? I can’t stress this enough. So key. My radar is always up for the nonlisteners. In life beyond conventions too. Off to share.

  2. So glad you enjoyed the post, Kelly. Yes, it is amusing how the standard mindset is the more business cards you pass out the more effectively your marketing. How many of those contacts really make it anywhere but the circular file? Thanks!

  3. Such valuable tips Nanette, and as a extreme introvert I really do appreciate them. Every one of them feels smart and useful, but I particularly love the “dress sharp or different” one. A just-right “costume” is such a confidence builder don’t you think?

    • Yes, I chuckle at clever costumes, Deborah. On the introvert note, It’s funny, I’ve noted lately many (seems like a majority of those I’m encountering) people putting themselves out there in business pursuits are introverts. Makes one wonder why all the standard precepts seem to have been formulated with extroverts in mind.

  4. Have you heard of Steal the Show? It’s a podcast about public speaking. The guy is really good! He does tend to repeat himself a lot, especially when you are listening to them one after the other like I did. He’s got a book, I think by the same name.

    I like what you said about taking the time to digest the information you gathered. That is always important, even if you are just going to a conference or something. I forget a lot of times and regret it later.

    • No I haven’t heard of this one, Amy. I’ll check it out. Yes, that evening time can be priceless if you use it wisely. I’ve learned not to trust my memory so take time after the day’s chaos to jot things down. My laptop is my friend ;-).

  5. I appreciate when other folks at blogging events give me their cards; makes it much easier to look their stuff afterwards!

    And having your own hotel room if you can afford it is a must-have for conferences and conventions. Being able to lie down uninterrupted an hour or two on my own schedule keeps me fresh.

  6. Great points here, Nanette. My personal favorite that I strive to do with each person I meet is #3 – Seek to Give, not Get. I am always listening to them and what’s important to them and then I see how I may be of service to them without any expectation because this is the best way to build trust. I enjoyed reading your article.

  7. Great post! I think I’m a bit of both introvert and extrovert…LOL…is that even possible? I find that I am energized by the crowd, but I always need that ‘alone’ time to recharge. That tip about having your own hotel room…is a critical one for me. I have gone to conventions where I shared a room…huge mistake…there just never seems to be any ‘down time’ to recharge the batteries!

    • Yes, it’s amazing how much you loose thinking about money saved, isn’t it, Debbie? I’ve learned the hard way on many of these points, too.