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Let’s be honest, networking can be a difficult experience for almost anyone, but if you’re the type of person who identifies as an introvert, then you probably understand this struggle better than anyone. Just the thought of meeting new people at a networking event can be enough to send your stomach into knots. I can relate to this feeling of dread because I’m an introvert myself and have had to put together a complete mental plan when attending large networking events and trade shows.
However, there are so many benefits to networking and attending conferences that it’s worth the awkwardness. Networking events can help you foster relationships in hours that might take years online to develop. By forcing myself to attend events, I was able to forge new strategic partnerships and even form lifelong friendships.
Creating a plan of action before attending the conference is key to a successful networking experience. Here are my top five tips that I use every time I attend a conference:
1. Create a specific goal for the number of people you want to meet at the event
If the event is two days, don’t go overboard and expect to meet 50 people. As introverts, we much prefer to have fewer interactions that are deep and meaningful. I usually set my intention to meet three to five amazing people each day who I think will become long-term relationships. If I only connect with two that day, but they were meaningful conversations, I’m not beating myself up over a missed opportunity. Instead, I reward myself for having the courage to strike up conversations with two strangers.
Related: 6 Ways Introverts Can Avoid Being Embarrassed at Conferences
2. Break the ice before attending
Once you’ve set a specific goal of meeting others at the conference, do some initial research online and send each person an introduction via email or text before meeting them in person. In general, I will look at any information on the conference website, including specific booth numbers.
In addition, I research participants’ LinkedIn profiles so I can understand their backgrounds and interests. To break the ice, I always create a personalized video and forward it to their email or LinkedIn messages.
Here is an example of my video script “Hey Lisa, I am eager to connect with you at the National Cybersecurity Conference next week. After viewing your LinkedIn profile, I am even more impressed by your commitment to healthcare security. I would a 15-minute discussion at booth #225 to learn more about your 2023 initiatives and share our current healthcare cyber strategy. Should we schedule a time or can I just stop by and introduce myself?” In most cases, cold calls, emails and texts get very few responses. However, the video messages I send have a 70% success rate due to the personalized approach and immediacy of the upcoming conference.
3. Come prepared with three key points to share in conversations
When meeting people at networking events, make sure you come prepared with ideas about what you want to share. At times, you may only have five minutes, so you have to treat it like an elevator pitch. Think of the three critical points you’d like them to remember. One of those points should be a story or a powerful statement that will make them want to learn more about you and your company. Here’s an example of a three-point approach. “Lisa, thank you for taking a few moments today at the Cyber Security Conference. Two years ago, our team cracked the code to eliminate 98% of ransomware threats within 8 seconds of detection. We’d love for you to try our software and see if it can be an addition to your security process. How is your team currently navigating ransomware threats with your prospects? This can help you set the stage for a meaningful dialogue and get off to a strong start the conversation.
Related: Even introverts can excel at networking by following these steps
4. The person who talks the most loses the deal
The saying that most people prefer to talk about themselves or their interests is true. Therefore, I usually focus on the 70% of the conversation led by them. As they speak, I make mental notes of anything that is interesting or relevant and can be used to respond with purpose. In fact, I rarely prepare a full conversation agenda because the agenda is improvised during the conversation. In this way, it allows the conversation to be authentic and spontaneous as opposed to rehearsing canned responses. This can help you stay focused and engaged on the actual topics being discussed as opposed to the topics you assumed would be discussed.
5. You always find your anchor
One of my first goals at any conference is to find my anchor. A presenter is someone you can chat with throughout the conference and will help support introductions or make suggestions for specific conference workshops. I rarely know the anchor before the event. However, I always know when I’ve met my anchor because they’re easy to connect with and can open doors in situations that might be uncomfortable for an introvert. Finding my anchor is essential, otherwise I can get so uncomfortable and either hide in a corner or go back to my hotel room. Honestly, I’ve done both many times at conferences.
Networking is worthwhile and can help you open many doors in your business. For introverts, connecting and networking in large crowds can always feel a bit awkward. However, with a few basic tips, you’ll find that networking can be less stressful and more fun. Good luck!