The extroverted definition of networking usually conjures up a nightmarish montage of fake smiles, small talk, business card swapping, and firm handshakes. However, there’s more to networking than drinking overpriced cocktails in a crowded bar and charming strangers for three hours straight - and a lot of potential benefits from new, meaningful connections. With a little preparation and foresight, even the most introverted homebody can make face-to-face mask-to-mask networking as painless as possible (don’t worry, we’ve got internet tips, too).
You might be surprised at how easy it is to get in touch with well-known people in your industry. In other words, the Keynote Web Designer at the design convention isn’t getting Kardashian-level fanmail and is likely to reply if you have a burning question about outlet installation best practices. Try reaching out to people you admire on Instagram, Twitter, or email. However, one big caveat - keep your message short and sweet. They’re much more likely to answer initial questions if they’re friendly, specific, and open-ended.
Good: “Why did you start doing animation?”
Better: “What After Effects plugins do you use?”
Whenever you’re evaluating whether or not to attend a large networking event, ask yourself what you want to get out of it. Is there someone you’d particularly like to meet? If so, why do you want to meet them? Are you trying to drum up new clients? Get a job at the company hosting the event? Do a little Google stalking beforehand so you know who you’re looking for and what you’re hoping to get from the connection.
Do Your Homework
When you’re attending an event and one of the speakers is someone you’d like to meet, do a little research. See what they’ve been up to recently on Instagram or Twitter and use that as a conversation starter. Honestly, a pinch of vulnerability, and an open-ended question goes a long way towards disarming people, and everyone loves to talk about themselves. Adjust word seasonings to suit your taste.
Hi [cool person], my name is [your name]. I’m a big fan of yours and love the project you did for [other company] recently. Did you have a hard time pulling off [that thing that was impressive]?”
Note: This works best with people who are somewhat well-known, otherwise you might come off as a bit of a stalker...
Bring a Wingman
Everyone needs someone to watch their six. For networking, it helps to drag a gregarious friend along to take the pressure off during introductions (and give you someone to talk to when you’re in-between conversations). If you don’t have one already, try to find someone at an event. Look for other introverts and see if you can take on the networking together! (See our last tip…)
If you meet someone, send them a message a couple of days later. Express how much you enjoyed the conversation (everyone loves a compliment!) and, if you really hit it off, make plans for a coffee meetup.
Hey [new friend],
Great to meet you the other night! You’re totally right about [that thing you talked about]. Let me know if you wanna meet up for coffee at [coffee shop] sometime this week.
Remember Your Friends
It’s perfectly valid to eschew making new connections in lieu of strengthening existing relationships. It’s easy to keep friendships and professional relationships from going stale by having some kind of regular interaction. You never know what an existing connection or long-lost friend is working on - or who they know! Plus, reaching out doesn’t have to be a 300-word heartfelt email, either. A thoughtful comment on someone’s Instagram post or forwarding an article you think they’d like can be enough to start the conversation in a way that feels natural.
Own Your Introversion
If you ever do find yourself stuck at a party full of people you don’t know and can’t muster the courage to either a) break into a group conversation or b) break out of the social prison, look for other lone people to chat with. Introverts usually find one-on-one conversation less stressful and more productive. Barring that, find something else to enjoy about the space. For example, if you’re at an art gallery… try looking at the art. Observing your surroundings simultaneously takes the pressure off talking and gives you something to talk about.
Calling all introverts! Artisan has loads of remote-friendly projects, no water cooler talk required.
Looking for more networking tips? Check out our other blogs: