Networking can be an intimidating and overwhelming experiences for introverts
Coach Viv recommends forming a plan ahead of the conference, such as who you want to speak to and what you want to learn
Try and stay present in the conversations you are having and don’t overthink it – have fun!
So, you’re heading to BIGSOUND, SXSW, Australian Music Week or one of the other various music conferences around the world, and the idea of networking may bring feelings of equal parts excitement and apprehension. There are so many opportunities available, including the prospect of networking, that can fill introverts with dread. Networking can be an uncomfortable experience for even the most extroverted of people. But for introverts, the struggle is real. If the prospect of an evening of small talk with a bunch of strangers sends you into the panic zone, check out these tips from Viv Fantin of Next Act Coaching on how to schmooze like an introvert.
Find a buddy
Most introverts would rather stay in their hotel room watching Netflix than walk into a room full of strangers under the guise of networking. Hook up with a buddy who can offer moral support and a secret code for when you need saving. By committing to networking together, you’ll have more fun, keep each other accountable and serve as each other’s ‘home base’ when it’s all too much.
Have a plan
Find a way to make a large group smaller. Figure out in advance who you want to connect with and why. Find out a bit about them ahead of time and think about what you want to ask them, so your conversation is purposeful. Conferences are a great place to network, but as an introvert, you won’t have the energy meet everybody. Think quality, not quantity and make it count.
Ask questions. And listen. Once you start a conversation, you won’t be present if you’re worried about what to say next and what the other person is thinking. Try shifting the focus your new acquaintance, ask lots of interesting questions and practice your listening skills - a good listener stands to gain the most insight. One of the best lines I’ve read about networking is this “Don’t network in order to get, network in order to give”.
Don’t overthink it
Introverts can feel crushed by a perceived conversational misstep. But remember, everyone makes the occasional social faux pas. Do other people really care? Probably not because they’re too busy worrying about themselves.
Be wise with your energy budget
It’s been called an ‘introvert hangover’, a reaction to spending too much time in big groups or at large parties. Many introverts have limited rations of energy compared with some of our extroverted counterparts. So, manage your social energy budget accordingly and don’t say yes when you really mean NO.
Reframe the idea that you’ll hate networking and imagine it as an energising experience. In fact, ditch the word ‘networking’ from your lexicon. Instead, try and think of it as relationship building, professional development or just a chance to make cool new friends. Which you will do. Guaranteed.
Viv Fantin is an accredited personal coach who works with people who want to identify, set, and achieve realistic goals. She has seen all kinds of crazy as a music and festival publicist. Now in her second act, she is passionate about stress management and is on the never-ending quest to find the perfect work–life balance.