It’s hard out there for an introvert—especially when it comes to working a room. For the less outgoing, “attending a networking event can be like diving into a mosh pit,” says Nancy Ancowitz, business communication coach and author of Self-Promotion for Introverts. “It’s downright scary.”
While conventional wisdom holds that shy types are at a disadvantage in the business world, there are some lesser-known benefits to being among the more reserved. Research by Wharton management professor Adam Grant, for example, found that introverts are more effective leaders, and a recent Cambridge University study found they’re more adaptable in the workplace than their extroverted colleagues.
But that knowledge doesn’t necessarily help you when you’re hugging the wall at your next conference or cocktail reception. Follow these tips to nail a networking event.
- Adjust your mindset. If just hearing the word “networking” makes you gulp, reframe your approach. Instead of feeling overwhelmed by the size of the crowd, focus on your goal, which is to make two or three meaningful connections.
- Contact people in advance. Get a list of the attendees beforehand and determine the people you want to meet. For ice breakers, browse their social media feeds to find shared interests, which you can use as talking points in person.
- Bring a wingman. Need a confidence booster? Get a co-worker to join you at the event. Your colleague also may be able to use his or her connections to make an introduction.
- Go behind the scenes. Get access to key players by helping to organize or volunteering at the event. Checking in attendees, for example, allows you to meet with your target people when they walk in the door.
- Keep the focus on them. “Networking is about building relationships, not selling yourself,” says Mosley. Read: You don’t need to deliver an elevator pitch touting your achievements. Ask open-ended questions: “I see your company launched a new product. Did you work on it?”
- Exit strategically. Close the conversation by setting a time to meet in the future. Don’t forget to exchange business cards.
- Practice, practice, practice. Even if you do all of the above, you’re never going to feel completely comfortable schmoozing at an industry conference. But you can make the process less stressful by attending smaller networking events on a regular basis.
Source: TIME Money