Networking Tips From An Introverted Founder

By Andrea Barrica

Whenever I tell people I’m an introvert, they don’t believe me.

I regularly speak to large audiences and pitch my startup to investors who don’t exactly look like me, a young Filipina woman. I’ve coached hundreds of other people on how to be confident when pitching their dreams. I’ve perfected the art of connecting deeply with people at parties and making them feel warm inside.

Held up to our stereotypes about introverts, I don’t fit into that label.

Luckily, there’s been a recent boom of discussion and appreciation of introverts and the role we play in our society as leaders both behind the scenes and in the spotlight. The best concept I’ve come across is the difference between “outgoing introverts” and “shy extroverts.”

Introversion vs. extroversion is about where you draw energy and replenishment from – from being alone or from being with people. The “outgoing” or “shy” part is about how easy you find it to talk to new people and so on.

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People around you mostly see either the “outgoing” or “shy” dimensions of you and automatically think the former correlates to extroverts and the latter is only for introverts. They’re wrong!

I call myself an “outgoing introvert” – which means I’ve mastered the skills of connecting with new people with (what looks like) ease…but there’s nothing I want more than to escape the crowd and sit alone in the fresh air with my cheese plate.

Building up those skills took effort and time – so, I’d love to share quick networking tips for people who “hate” networking:

1. I ask surprising questions.

Forget “So, what are you working on?”. After a quick intro, I jump to questions that wake people up. My favorites lately have been “What’s keeping you up at night these days?,” “What is delighting you recently?,” and “Do you have any fun side hustles right now?”

Is it a little awkward a first? Maybe. But if you pretend it’s the most natural thing in the world, people usually are pleasantly surprised and happy for the entertainment value of leaving their usual canned questions and answers aside.

2. I play favorites, and I compliment sparingly and precisely.

If I’m talking with a group of 4 or 5 people, I have no shame about paying laser-focused attention to one or two of the people I’m connecting with most. Over the course of the conversation, I’ll find something truly unique about them to notice and remark on – not their clothes, not their job. Something about their personality shining through in the moment.

3. I set “goals” for myself.

Just like in sales, it’s much easier to track activities than it is to track outcomes. I can’t know that I’ll make three new best friends or advisors in one night, but I can promise myself that I’ll talk to at least five people before I give myself permission to go home. By the time number five comes and goes, I’ve become more comfortable and often stay and keep socializing.

4. I know how to take care of myself.

When I get overwhelmed, I know what to do. I get some fresh air, hang out in the corner for a while surveying the scene, or take a walk to the bathroom to breathe alone for a second and come back. Figuring out what self-care  in the context of different kinds of events means to you is critical.

5. When I can, I find a job at the party.

Especially if I’m at a more personal event hosted at someone’s home, I make a beeline for the host or hostess and get someone to put me to work. When you’re helping pour drinks or chop vegetables, people always come around to you! It’s a great, efficient way to meet folks.

6. I sleep in on days I’m going to network.

If I know that I’m going to be at a networking-heavy event in the evening, I fuel my batteries by sleeping in and keeping the beginning of my day very light.

Source: women2.com

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