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Networking for Introverts

When you run your own business, making contact with the outside world is usually an essential part of life.  There are many ways of doing this, for example by marketing, using social media, website etc, but at some point, we normally have to meet people face to face. 

As a Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) Practitioner, my work includes helping clients understand their personality preferences and how they can impact on their life.  From this understanding, it’s easy to find strategies to make them work positively.  I’m going to focus on how those with a preference for introversion can use their gifts to network.

I need to explain that introversion in this sense doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re a shy, reticent person – that’s the common dictionary definition.  In MBTI terms, introversion is when you get your energy from reflecting on thoughts and feelings, focusing on an inner world, rather than other people and activity.  Introversion usually means you operate best in one to one/few environments, and a traditional networking event can feel overwhelming. 

Sounds like a disaster waiting to happen as far as networking is concerned, doesn’t it??

So, how can you use your gifts to make networking a breeze?

1       Focus on one to one interactions.  People who prefer introversion find it easiest to speak to one person, or in a small group.  There will almost certainly be someone who is on their own, or there’ll be a small group at any event – go and join them, with a smile.

2       Plan the event you attend – instead of turning up to any and every networking event, plan which ones you want to go to so that you get the best out of your efforts.  Where will your likely customers or partners attend?  If you’ve attended a few recently, pace yourself and wait to attend the next one.

3       Plan your time – there are no rules that say you have to attend from the beginning and stay to the end. You might prefer to plan your time to be there when it’s a bit quieter so it’s not overwhelming.  Having something else to go onto can give you a genuine reason to leave.

4       Have a goal – neither do you have to speak with EVERYONE at the event.  Have a goal that you’ll speak with a certain number of people, or exchange details with people in a certain profession.  Then, when you’ve done your thing – you can leave.

5       Ask questions – the best networkers focus mostly on what they can find out about other people, rather than ‘selling’ themselves.  For someone with a preference for introversion, this is a saviour because the focus is on the other person. 

6       Be prepared – you won’t be able to spend the whole time asking questions, although I’ve come close at some events!  Whilst it’s impossible to script a whole conversation, having a number of ‘stock’ things to say/ask can help to get things started.

7       Create your own event – then you can be in control of who you invite, how long it lasts, how it works etc.

So, next time you go into meltdown thinking that you ‘should’ be out there networking, I hope these tips will help to make it a little less scary and allow you to connect with confidence!

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