how to network as an introvert

Networking as an introvert entrepreneur can be challenging.

Confession: As an introvert, I used to hate networking. I came up with any and every excuse to get out of networking events, no matter what they were.

But when I started my coaching business, I knew networking was a skill I needed to learn, introvert or not.

So I forced myself to try the typical “networking” events: Events put on by big groups, people in suits, watered down cocktails, name tags, and small talk.

As an introverted entrepreneur, I always felt like networking was all lip service and a way to spit out your elevator pitch in the fastest way possible. (Blech.)

I left these “typical” events feeling either like a fish out of water or like fresh meat being preyed upon by slick salespeople.

As an introvert, I needed to change my networking approach

If you’re like many introverts, you don’t like small talk — for valid reasons!

Traditional networking includes a lot of things most introverts don’t like: small talk, ice breakers, the facade that people put on when they don’t know one another.

If you’re an introvert like me, it’s not that you don’t enjoy talking with and connecting with people. It’s just that you want to do it in a deeper, more meaningful way.

I realized that if I wanted to make networking actually enjoyable for me, I needed to do things differently.

So I took a cue from Marie Kondo, I signed up only for things that “sparked joy”.

How I made networking more introvert-friendly

I knew I had to change things up when it came to networking, so this is what I did:

1. I gave myself permission to network in a way that felt good for me: I decided I would attend only things I wanted to go to. And they took a different look: book clubs, yoga retreats, conferences for women.

2. Next, when attending said events, instead of trying to talk to as many people as possible (which always felt like what I “should” do), my goal was to simply connect with one or two people on a deeper level.

3. I followed up like it was my job. The thing is, when you end up talking to fewer people, you often connect in a deeper way. And it’s only natural then to reach out and schedule a follow up conversation. This is how you build relationships.

(As a side note, if you’re an introvert, you may benefit from seeking out other introverts at networking events. It’s often easier — and you can skip the small talk!

introverts networking

To network as an introvert, you need a different approach

Once I was able to give myself permission to network connect in the way I wanted, everything changed.

I enjoyed myself. I met quality people. I returned from the event able to cultivate friendships and relationships that have helped me in my life and business.

I may never love traditional forms of networking as an introvert,  and that’s OK.

You may never love it, either.

But you can find activities you love. Places where you connect with like-minded people. Events where you’re more likely to show up authentically and willing to engage on a deeper level.

Continue to seek out those places and spaces where you want to be and where you can be yourself.

5 tips to network as an introvert entrepreneur

1. Reset your expectations. Whatever you choose to attend, know WHY you are attending and what you hope to get out of it. Reframe your expectations. Instead of putting pressure on yourself to meet as many people as possible, decide what’s most important to you.

2. Use your natural gifts. If you’re an introvert, you might not enjoy large groups or noise or flitting around the crowd. Don’t do it! Embrace your natural skill and desire for deep connection and seek out people who are more interested in having 1:1 conversations.

3. Choose what sparks joy. Seek out events you like, whether they’re business-related or not. You’re more likely to be open for connection when you feel good about what you’re attending! Follow the places and the people that feel good.

4. Follow up with strong connections. Most relationships never get started because no one follows up. Reach out to the people you felt a strong connection with. Approach the follow-up as an opportunity to learn more about the person you met and see what connections might develop.

5. Be a resource! Your follow-up conversation isn’t a sales consult– unless that’s what the person on the other end wants. Instead, be helpful. People remember those who offer value, whether it’s a recommendation, resource, or even just your time.

Networking “don’ts” for introverts (and extroverts for that matter)

  1. Don’t treat all people like they’re your potential clients. (They’re not!)
  2. Don’t put on a facade. (People can spot fake a mile away.)
  3. Don’t add someone to your email list just because they gave you their business card. (It’s illegal!)

Last, don’t take yourself too seriously! Like everything in business, networking is an experiment. Some things you’ll love, and some you’ll hate. What matters is what you learn and how you choose to move forward.

Remember, being an introvert doesn’t mean you can’t be good at networking

In fact, when you use your superpowers, you can network as an introvert and form connections in the ways you know how!

Speaking of superpowers, the best ways to market your business and get visible are the ways that align with your natural strengths. Not sure what those are? Take the Marketing Superpower Quiz to find yours!