Sunday, January 3, 2010
Networking for Introverts
By nature, I am a reserved person and I lack the gift of the gab. I don't know much about sports and I am not into small talk. Yet being in business development, networking is part of my job.
For the longest time, networking felt awkward and uncomfortable. I would often be the guy on the side with a drink in my hand. I silently wished I could mingle like rest of the folks who were chatting away and having a gala time. But I didn't know where to start or what to do. Yes, it was "lonely".
It is said that necessity is the source for new ideas, new solutions. Out of my necessity, I came up with my "4-Steps to Networking for Introverts". It has worked like a charm. So if you're like me and this is a challenge for you, read on.
Here are my 4-steps. Give 'em a try and experience the benefits for yourself. Before proceeding though, realize that I see networking as a way to start initiating relationships, and not as the place to sell. With that, let's move forward.
Step 1: After you get a drink, find someone in the room who is standing alone. Trust me, it won't be difficult. Walk up to them, extend out your hand and say something like "Hi, I am Vinay. And you are?". They'll be so thankful to you for reaching out to them. After they give you there name, say something like what I say "Nice to meet you. I am Vinay, with Marketing General. We help associations grow membership. Tell me, what do you do?". After they have talked a bit, depending of course on the flow of the conversation, you can say something like "Wow, that's fantastic. How did you get into that?".
Step 2: After some time, gently get away from person you met in step 1, and find another person standing alone. Repeat line of questioning & conversation outlined in step #1.
Step 3: After some initial conversation, together with person you met in step #2, walk over to person you met in step #1 and introduce them to each other, and let them start to have a conversation. As that happens, gently move away onto step #4.
Step 4: Find a 3rd person who is alone and start over with step #1.
The secret it to reach out, ask few open ended questions, and then just listen. People generally love to talk about themselves and what they do. So all you have to do is reach out with a simple hello, and ask couple of open ended questions to get the ball rolling. Through this entire process, you mostly listen, which is where we introverts really excel. In addition, the other person in feels great and it works to your style, your natural strength as an introvert.
Before you know it, you'll have initiated some great relationships, some that may even turn into life long friends, let alone clients. You'll have helped those individuals who were probably feeling alone, wishing they had someone to talk to. Furthermore, you'll have engaged these individuals, made them feel welcomed which could lead them to come again to such gatherings. Finally, those conversations may lead to business for you and they may further also introduce you to others, folks whom you otherwise might have never met. EVERYONE wins! Go ahead and give it try.
Well, now that I have this networking under my belt, next I need to overcome my inhibitions and get myself onto the dance floor. If you get that one figured out before I do, please do share your secret. My wife will thank you, for she likes to dance and I don't have the nerves to go on the dance floor just yet, atleast not without having several stiff drinks first. :)