First, let's be clear that introversion is not about how talkative or not you are, or how shy or outgoing. It is commonly misconceived that introverts are shy, extroverts are outgoing, and that's that. That is not that.
The difference between introverts and extroverts is where they get their energy.
Extroverts recharge their batteries by hanging out with other people.
Introverts recharge with quiet time spent alone. For introverts, time spent with friends and loved ones, even in relatively small groups can be draining. So, you might imagine, the idea of going to a networking event to meet a massive group of new people, seems like an exercise in slow exhausting self-torture.
It doesn't have to be!
I used to be 100% anti-networking.
It seemed like the absolute worst use of my limited supply of energy juices, unlike say, a dance party or going out to a Pirates game. But things have changed and I'm here to tell you how you can rock a networking event as an introvert too.
Charge up in preparation. Since introverts are exhausted by crowds and engaging with people, it stands to reason that you should not surround yourself with people for two straight days leading up to a networking event. Don't plan tons of meetings for those days. Have quiet dinners at home, and log some serious reading time.
For the love of gluten free pizza, DON'T go to every event you get invited to. That's just asking for trouble. You'll end up over stimulated, over exhausted, and bitter. That said, do shop around. In my position, I get invited to photography events, non-profit events, women events, arts events, and so on. I've been to at least one of each (NOT all in the same month!) so I can confidently say, "This event is for me, that event is not."
Set feasible goals and stick to them. A feasible goal is not, "I will meet all 100 people in this room and make a meaningful connection with each every one...in two hours." Find something that feels good for you and then stretch just a bit. My first time out to a Propelle event, I felt super thrilled when I had an engaging conversation with one person. When that conversation came to a close, I allowed myself to go home and felt great. The next time I stayed for two conversations and so on.
Have a drink. Seriously. I read an article about networking once that said not to drink at events because you might end up dancing on a table and that wouldn't be great for your professional image. Depending on the type of networking event, that's probably right. But, you'll note I didn't say "Take a bunch of shots!" or "Have six drinks!" I said, "Have a drink." This is critical for me because I walk into events hyper aware of my introversion and afraid of how wiped out I'll be at the end. Without a little liquid courage to loosen things up, I don't talk to people or smile because I'm too busy hoarding my precious energy juices. I think of a glass of wine or cocktail as an energy juice extender, if you will.
Schedule recovery/recharge time. If you are heading to a Thursday night event, don't schedule a jam-packed day of meetings for Friday. Similarly, if you meet someone awesome at the event and you two plan to meet up for coffee for further conversation, don't suggest tomorrow out of enthusiasm. Find a time next week. You'll thank me (and yourself) later.
I always thought networking was a necessary evil until I started honoring my limits.
Now I look forward to meeting engaging entrepreneurs and artists, and talking about why I love to do what I do. There's nothing evil about that.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Sam Laffey lives, works, and plays with her partner of nine years, Nathan, and two adorable puppies. She is passionate about art, food, books, Steeler football, groovy patterns, the oxford comma, and the color green.
She is enthusiastic about helping artists and creative business owners find success through clear writing and clean design. You can find her online at porterlovescreative.com and on Twitter @samlaffey.