Last week I posted my Top 7 Takeaways from HOW Design Live, but I held onto one specifically for this post. I had the opportunity to hear Jeff Greenspan give a talk titled Be Your Own Brand, Be Your Own Buzz. During his talk, Greenspan said this: “Your brand comes from the style in which you approach the world.” This served as a great reminder that while I may be an introvert at heart, I still need to put my best foot forward whenever I’m networking at conferences or events. I’ve put together a handful of tips that have helped me improve my networking and personal branding. I hope they help you!
6 Networking Tips for Introverts
1. Suck it up.
Harsh, I know—but hear me out. You need to say this to yourself out loud or in your head (whatever floats your boat) because it’s true. As an introvert, it’s nerve wracking for me to start conversations with new people but I know I can’t let my nerves drive my interactions with others.
2. Don’t stand in a corner.
The temptation to stand in the corner is very real, but you’ll never meet anyone if you do that. Start small by exchanging names and work up to talking about the event. What brought them there? Are they enjoying themselves? These are great starter questions.
3. Explain yourself.
Often times, we are tempted to introduce ourselves with the fewest amount of words possible. For example, Lindsey the designer or Lindsey the blogger. Using one word descriptors to talk about the work that you do is wildly ambiguous. When you introduce yourself, explain your what exactly you do. What kind of design do you specialize in? What is your blog about? Details are everything.
Listening is different from hearing. Do not ask someone a question and then let your mind wander to your grocery list and your Netflix queue. Keep your mind present in your conversation. Networking is about making connections and you can’t do that if you ignore the person with whom you’re talking. Listening enables you to ask insightful and interesting follow up questions that help the conversation flow naturally.
5. Be engaging.
Networking is about more than just exchanging business cards and talking shop. You also have to be personable. People remember personal interactions, not job descriptions. Remember that your job does not define you and your interests and hobbies are also part of who you are. Shared interests are a great and easy way to engage with new contacts.
6. Follow up.
Do not put all of that work into networking at an event, only to let it fall by the wayside the next day. Gather all of those business cards and start looking people up. The follow up is key because people take notice of the extra effort. Email and social media make this process much easier. Whether you email, tweet, or message your follow up, remember to include something about when/where you met and a reference to a topic the two of you discussed.
Now go out there and network like a pro. You got this.