When your shy, some parts of entrepreneurship, like networking, can be especially challenging. But introverts are business owners too! So how do they do it? If you’re shy and you’re just starting out in the business world or even if you’ve been in business for a while but you’re just coming to terms with your wallflower ways, this list of helpful tips should get you off to a pretty good start when attending meetings or conferences intended for networking.
1. Arrive early or on time. When you walk into a room that is already conversing without you, it can feel more difficult to blend in. If you do find yourself in this kind of situation though, don’t walk up and just start chiming in with no context. Wait and listen to make sure you understand the discussion first. Asking relevant questions can get people talking while including you in the mix.
2. You don’t have to know it all. There’s nothing wrong with not giving a speech. You don’t have to feel obligated to take a stand on any major issues. It can be more advantageous when you’re networking to ask questions about other people and their vocations, products, or services. Just explain your business products and services when asked as you normally would during work hours. You don’t have to make a grand presentation with fancy overkill.
3. You’re not the only shy one. Everyone can be intimidated by new people or situations. It’s not a giant label on your forehead and everyone doesn’t know as soon as they look at you. You appear just as confident and in control as everyone else there because we’re all a lot alike. You might notice someone who is sitting or standing alone. They could be shy too and might welcome a gentle greeting.
4. Dress up. Even if you normally work in jeans and a t-shirt in the basement of the pet parade, you should try to dress up for a networking function. No one wants to study the mustard on your old VanHalen shirt. Plus dressing up will make you feel more confident but you don’t have to rent a tuxedo! Men can just wear dress pants and a button up shirt or for women, a modest dress with low to medium heels would be all that is required. Being clean and neat makes a better impression and will boost your self-esteem.
5. Set up networking goals and rewards. Set up a goal for yourself to try to meet at least three new people and share business information with them. The next time, you can try for four or five. Have your business cards ready to make things easier but don’t just thrust out your card and duck away. Look the person in the eye and don’t forget to smile! Smiles are contagious and help everyone feel more at ease. Have sweet rewards ready and waiting for yourself at home like dark chocolate or candles that you can light for a relaxing bath. You can look forward to that reward you have waiting during the whole meeting, knowing that stress relief is on the way.
6. You and your business are an integral part of our culture and society. Present yourself with the confidence of someone who has value equal to all of the others around you, because it’s true! When networking, be a good listener and do your best to remember names, faces, and stories. Don’t walk around giving everyone unsolicited advice on your subject of expertise. Just share the basics respectfully and provide your business card with contact information. These are your future contacts and first candidates for products or services that you might need later on.
7. Take time out here and there if you feel you need it. You can visit the restroom or even run to your car “for something” to get a moment or two to yourself if you feel overwhelmed. It’s okay to leave a bit early but try to stay as long as possible. People enjoy others’ company, and that means you!
8. You are welcome. You were invited. Right? So everyone wanted you there! Most of these networking functions exist for connecting local business owners or entrepreneurs with one another to make finding and providing their products and services easier and to provide a network of people who are facing the same kinds of challenges for echo. When members of this gathering are using and maximizing the expertise offered by the others, it will result in the whole group progressing in a more positive way.
9. Bring a friend but only if he or she is relevant. Inviting your web developer or bookkeeper to a business conference might be better than bringing your old bowling partner. I mean, he’s got great nacho recipes but he might light a cigar or have a pizza delivered which probably wouldn’t go over well. Having a friend with you when you’re shy can really help though… especially if your friend is extroverted! They can help you get new conversations rolling and also fill in those silent awkward moments.
10. Be yourself. Start off by realizing that no one you talk to is like you. You’re exactly what makes you unique! Feel free to mention hobbies or local events that might appeal to the others you’re conversing with. This can give both you and the person you’re speaking with another anchor to remember in future meetings. It also keeps things more fun and engaging! Learn more about your contacts and their preferences to tailor your invitations for your own event.
Don’t forget to follow up with new acquaintances to express your appreciation for their time and attendance. Best success!