I love people—and I love meeting new people—but I am really an introvert at heart. I recharge by being at home, curling up with a good book and cuddling with my coffee. However, I know that in order to grow my business, I must get out and connect with other entrepreneurs.
So on mornings like this morning, I drag myself out of bed, make myself look respectable, and head off to a networking meeting. Sometimes it’s a brunch or lunch meeting, other times an evening soiree. Sometimes it’s even a day-long conference.
It doesn’t really matter what the event looks like; for me the purpose is to connect with other entrepreneurs and non-profit leaders who are as passionate about their work as I am about mine.
I know that for some people—mostly extroverts—going to these events is energizing. They thrive on walking into a room filled with people they don’t know. Who might they meet? What might they learn? Who might they help? They get excited about the prospects of connecting with someone they haven’t yet met.
If you’re an introvert like me, don’t fret. Over the past decade of attending networking events, I’ve learned a few tricks that help me reframe networking and connect more fully with those I meet:
Choose your networking groups carefully. Try them all, but be selective about which ones you go to regularly. Go where you find your ideal clients.
Go consistently to re-connect with those you’ve already met, in addition to meeting new people. Form bonds and build friendships.
Ask questions. Be curious. Focus on what’s new with the other participants: what they are working on and how can you help. Be a resource.
Look for opportunities to share your passion for what you do, without selling your services. Share stories. Explore ideas.
Stay connected between events. A follow-up phone call. An invite for coffee. A helpful resource sent by email. Be proactive about growing the relationship.
Having done this for the past few years, I’m discovering that when I go to a networking event now, there is almost always a friendly face. And that friendly face helps to put me at ease. It makes it easier to remember that a stranger is simply a friend I haven’t yet met.
By adopting this approach, it’s easier to get myself to these events. I’m there to connect with others who are passionate about what they do—who are coming together to grow a community of likeminded business people who can support and encourage each other. For that, I’ll get out of bed or off the couch!