FOR decades, professional networking has been recognised as a necessary skill for career and business progression. Now, thanks to the advance of modern technology and the expansion of offers on the Internet, you can easily make a business connection with someone halfway across the world.
Whether running your own business or climbing the corporate ladder, you rely on the people around you — your network — to get ahead. Take good care of your network and you can supercharge your career advancement or skyrocket your business profits.
But what if networking does not come easily for some people?
Networking requires meeting and connecting with people. For the introvert, the thought of meeting new people can seem daunting. Try this test:
ï® Do you find yourself wanting to wiggle out of social situations?
ï® Do you feel drained after attending a party or meeting a group of people?
ï® Does the thought of business networking make you squirm in your seat?
If you answered “yes” to these questions, you are very likely an introvert.
As an introvert who provides training and consulting in professional networking, I always stump the attendees of my workshops when I
reveal that I am not the extrovert they think I
In fact, it seems ludicrous to claim that I, the introvert, can help people succeed in business networking, since my personality inclines me to be less enthusiastic about meeting people, particularly new ones.
Networking by introverts — really?
Very few people associate networking with people who are introverts. Many have the impression that networking is the forte of extroverts, who bask in the limelight of attention, energised by people around them.
At the other end of the spectrum is the introvert, preferring very much to be by himself in a corner with a cup of coffee in hand, hoping no one will strike up a conversation with him.
The truth is you do not have to pretend to be extroverted to succeed at professional networking.
You do not have to pretend to like the company of someone who has been droning on for more than five minutes about how well his business is doing. You do not have to feel stressed about making small talk with others when you attend a networking session.
Practical networking tips for introverts
Here, I will share three easy tips to help you survive and succeed in your next business networking session:
ï® Prepare your 30-second elevator pitch: One of the biggest stressors from business networking comes from being poorly prepared. Do not be caught in a situation where you are so anxious about making a first impression that you end up fumbling for words when introducing yourself.
Take some time before the meeting and think about how you would like others to perceive you. My best advice is to write short and simple sentences about your role in your company, and what the company does. For example, “I am John Tan, the director of ABC Company and we provide IT solutions to SMEs.”
Rehearse this in front of the mirror as often as you like. You can also run this by a trusted co-worker for constructive feedback.
Now, even when you walk into the room and start to feel the jitters, you would already have a well-
rehearsed script in mind to help you get started.
ï® Ask sincere questions about the other person: One of the things that introverts are weak at is making small talk. They dislike this because it can feel patronising and they would much rather get straight to the point.
You do not have to stress yourself over questions to ask, such as talking about the weather or about some recent news headline (unless, of course it is of genuine interest to you).
Instead, you may want to cut to the chase and ask the person you are trying to connect with some questions about himself. Some suggestions are:
ï® How long have you been in this business/
ï® What sort of business referrals are you looking for?
ï® What is the best or most challenging part of your job?
Remember, you can be yourself. Ask questions that will help you get to know the other person better, and be genuine about it. He will know if you are being sincere.
ï® Politely excuse yourself if you don’t want to remain in the conversation: Most of us do not like to be rude and interrupt someone who is talking. Simply remind yourself that you are at the event for a purpose — to seek out new opportunities and establish mutually beneficial business relationships. You are definitely not there to entertain others.
If you find yourself getting bored, or do not have any interest in what the other party is saying, thank him for sharing. Tell him that you are keen on meeting other people in the room.
Enjoy stress-free networking
Business networking allows you to explore new opportunities with people you meet, leverage one another’s expertise and even build business partnerships to move forward. Contrary to popular belief, you can be an introvert and still use business networking as a platform to stay ahead in your career and business.
Article by Mervin Yeo, a networking evangelist. It is the first of a three-part series on business networking for introverts. His upcoming book is titled I Can Connect — An Introvert’s Handbook To Stress-Free Networking. For more information, visit www.mervinyeo.com