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As an INFJ, I’m inclined to believe networking (even online networking) is one of the closest things to hell on earth for an introvert. It involves some of the most daunting tasks. Namely small talk, surface-level conversations and a never-ending sea of people to wade through.
When you’re networking as an introvert, it’s tempting to make a beeline to the nearest corner and adopt it as your private bubble for the rest of the evening. However, networking is a necessary evil, one that opens many doors and can bring some meaningful relationships into your life.
With the changing face of physical spaces, networking has effectively moved onto the internet. And, while online networking is much easier to handle than walking around the room sporting a smile that rivals the ‘Hide the pain, Harold’ meme, it can still be daunting for introverts.
7 tips to navigate online networking as an introvert
If you’re in the same boat, I’ve got your back. Here are some tried and tested tips from a seasoned introvert. Let’s get you through an online networking event and help you leave a good impression.
Tip #1: Prepare, prepare, prepare!
As an introvert, it can be tough to step up and introduce yourself – especially in a formal setting where a lot might hinge on your presentation. The only way around this roadblock is to prepare. The internet buffer between you and the rest of the panel allows you to use your natural penchant for prep and planning.
Have a script ready on your screen or beside it for easy reference. Keep your introduction crisp. Rehearse your sentences until they flow naturally and your voice is well-oiled.
A few topics you might want to cover in your presentation include who you are, what you do, and what you hope to get out of this networking event.
Tip #2: Listen with intention
Listening is one of our biggest strengths as introverts, but we have little patience for small talk and schmoozing. Since introverts are likely to be more comfortable with showing interest in others, use that trait to your advantage, and listen with intention.
Your aim during online networking is to forge meaningful connections. So listening intently and noting down important points and speaker facets will help you in the long run. Making someone feel heard always paves the way towards longer-lasting collaborations.
Tip #3: Make note of interesting people
While you’re listening with intention, consider turning your natural curiosity towards other guests in the event.
Evaluate who you find most interesting and write down a bit of what they said. This way, you can get in touch with them in a one-to-one setting. It will allow you to have a few conversation starters to get past the awkwardness.
By paying attention to who you find interesting, you’re more likely to be invested in the conversation and come away with meaningful insights.
Tip #4: Stay quiet when you need to
Unlike physical networking events, you’ll find it’s easier to stay quiet during an online networking event.
In fact, it’s even appreciated by others because constant chatter can overpower the conversation and create more noise than value.
When someone else is talking, don’t hesitate to hit the ‘mute’ button. This way, you don’t have to stifle a cough or tell your dog to stop barking. You’re also building on your tendency to listen.
Tip #5: Announce your intention to speak
Introverts tend to wait for a lull in conversations before chiming in with opinions. However, you might find an entire conversation carrying on without a gap for you to break through. It’s even tougher to speak during an online networking event where bodily cues aren’t readily available.
The only way around this is to announce your intention to speak. You don’t have to jump into your topic or speak over someone. Instead, you could say “I would like to add to that” or “Can I express my views at this juncture?”
Since online networking events are limited in size, your chances of being heard are much higher than trying to talk over chatty Joe Bloggs and the DJ belting out tunes.
Tip #6: Make one-to-one connections after the event
The internet can be a quiet person’s best friend. You’re given the time to craft thoughtful messages and reach out to the most inspiring people within a few clicks.
Don’t let any connections you made during an online networking event die down. Leverage the internet to reach out to the guests you found most interesting.
Introverts thrive on one-to-one connections. So by the time you’re ready to connect offline, this once-stranger will probably feel like an old friend, with no awkwardness in sight.
Tip #7: Take a break
Before you attend an online networking event, allow yourself some time to get into the right state of mind. Clear your schedule and do a little of what you love, whether that’s drawing or watching dog videos on social media.
You can decide to stay through the entire event or leave halfway because if you find it’s not for you – you’re not obliged to stick around! After the event, do something entirely unrelated to rest and recharge your social battery.
Online networking is worth the effort
Networking events aren’t the be-all and end-all of making professional connections, but they’re still useful when it comes to widening your circles.
Networking for introverts can be draining, but it’s a chance worth taking. Especially considering so many people have met their future employers, business partners and other confidantes through networking events.
That said, don’t put pressure on yourself to be your most extroverted self during an online networking event. Often, it’s what happens after the event that matters – and this is up to you to do in your own time and at your own pace!