In school, I was a typical shy kid.
Teachers would often:
- Comment on my lack of participation
- Be concerned about the fact I wasn't making a lot of friends
However, the reality was that I only wanted to speak when I had something to say.
Not to mention, I was perfectly happy with a small group of friends.
And that shyness has followed me up until today.
Shy person's guide to networking
So, when I grew older networking events were really hard for me at first.
But eventually, out of pure necessity, I got over it.
If everything I've mentioned so far sounds far too familiar today's post will really come in handy.
Today I'm going to show you how to kick ass at in-person networking as a shy freelancer.
1) Do your research
A few year's ago I read Susan Cain's Quiet: The Power of Introverts In a World That Can't Stop Talking.
And it changed my perspective on my shy, introverted nature.
She offered a take on introversion that I hadn't seen before.
One that didn't treat it like something that needed to be cured.
I loved it because it gave the solace I was looking for.
The reminder that there are other people like me out there.
Here's a quote from Susan Cain that will inspire you to use your introverted nature to its full potential:
The secret to life is to put yourself in the right lighting. For some it's a broadway spotlight; for others a lamplit desk. Use your natural powers---of persistence, concentration, and insight---to do work you love and work that matters. Solve problems. Make art, think deeply.
So, if you're an introvert, and this networking thing is invoking terror, focus on getting to know your audience.
Get to know them before you enter the room.
There's only so much you can find out before you walk in the room.
People will bail at the last minute.
Not to mention, some, not all, people can be a bit vague online.
That's why being prepared for the unexpected is so important.
The one thing that shy introverts have on their side in these situations is amazing listening skills.
If you focus exclusively on being the insightful expert in the room people will remember you.
Then they'll tell all their friends.
And you want that, of course!
3) Ask questions
People love talking about themselves...a lot.
So let them do that!
Maintain full eye-contact, and be approachable.
And always treat everyone like equals.
Because that's literally what they are.
Show interest by asking whatever questions that come into your head about what the attendees do.
And if you do that, they'll do the same in return.
Start with basics such as:
- What do you do?
- How is your business going?
- What kinds of ideas do you have for your business over the long-term?
And then take it from there!
4) Don't push yourself
Extroverts and introverts recharge in completely different ways.
Just because someone else in the room managed to give their business cards to everyone in the room doesn't mean that you have to.
Let's be real here. You only need to talk to as many people as you need to.
When you start to feel your energy fading your networking skills won't be as good as they could be.
Set a goal for how many business cards you want to give out and how many people you want to talk to, and stick to it!
5) Stick to your passions
Not only am I a shy introvert myself, but a lot of the people I love the most are shy introverts as well.
What we all have in common, is that when you first get to know us we're not very talkative.
But, when you get us to talk about something we're passionate about and/or make an effort to get to know us a better we'll talk non-stop.
That's exactly why making your passions the center of all your discussions is so important.
It will just make you a more confident person overall.
Speaking of confidence...
The most important part of surviving your next networking event as a shy introvert is wearing clothes and accessories that you feel good in while talking to as many like-minded people as you can.
This will stop you from giving up, and simply hanging out with Netflix and your cat instead.
If you do that, then attending networking events won't seem like such a chore.
Good luck on your next networking event!
Above all else, never forget that everyone is probably as nervous as you are and are likely there for similar reasons.
The chances of the attendees being interested in what you have to say is high.
That's exactly why there's nothing to be nervous about.
Over to you...
Feel free to comment on what you do to make networking as an introverted freelancer a little bit easier.