Hi 👋 I’m an introvert.
I tire in front of people quickly; I prefer to watch rather than be watched; the zoom mic actively ignores my voice. This would all be fine, except that I need to talk about my company (to people) to keep it growing. So I’ve had to learn how to network without draining my social battery!
How to network when networking exhausts you
Networking and marketing is taxing for us introverts — it’s hard for me to be out in front of people so much without exhausting myself. I’d avoid it, but then the business wouldn’t grow. A huge portion of what I need to do is community building, networking, and remote event running (since the company I’m building is an online interactive event tool with the express purpose of helping bring people together). Which means not only do I need to run lots of events online — they need to be good.
There’s good news: I’ve found a ton of great work-arounds to that preserve both my sanity and growth targets. I’m going to share with you the top three things that have helped me keep on growing, marketing and networking, while not fully draining my social battery.
1. Batch everything, including your networking
I set aside a specific day of the week and time block that’s designated as my “connect, network, and interact” time. It’s the only day & block that’s available on my Calendly for public booking. This way, I know it’s coming, I can prepare, and I can also avoid the “I should be ‘actually working’, not chatting” anxiety brain, since this is the assigned work task (and *is* work in its own way, don’t forget).
I also batch networking when I can by running group events! This does so much to help save my time and energy.
“But, running an event with lots of people sounds completely awful.”– Introverts everywhere
Here’s how I make online meetings, group video calls, conference talks, and remote events good for my audience, but still easy for me as an introvert.
How to run great group events as an introvert
First build in interactivity. The more your audience participates
- the more they’re engaged
- the more they like it
- the less you have to do and the less they’re looking at you 😉
Remove barriers to entry (if unmuting yourself in front of 80 people is the only way to participate, few will) and make rules!
Question: Would you act like a monkey in the middle of a meeting?
Follow Up Question: Would you act like a monkey in a game of charades?
Rules and structure can set us free. Free your audience! Coach them through exactly how to interact. Here’s an example: “Let’s do a chat waterfall! Open your zoom chat—bottom right—and type in where you’re from”.
Then get your audience interested: plan your content well, and add fun & excitement. Sounds hard, is actually easy. My main tips is to play games! Here’s a full article with specifics (and tons of useful, actionable examples) for how to do all of these things.
2. Find the right (remote) tools
I have a host of SaaS subscription that might make some cringe — but you don’t need everything, and a lot of it is available (at least in part) for free!
- Do you have trouble finding times to meet with people or scheduling that batched time? Get a free Calendly account so you can simply say “here’s my availability — schedule a slot!”
- Want to have topics supplied for you, so you don’t have to make conversation from scratch on video calls? Try out Icebreaker Video.
- Do you struggle to build in interactivity when you have a group on a zoom call? Get a free Slides With Friends account.
Next up — join (paid / gatekept) communities that will help you grow while supporting you at the same time. These have been invaluable for me, and here’s just a few that I’ve found especially welcoming and helpful:
- Dreamers & Doers (women’s networking)
- Ness Labs (calm & mindful community)
- Indie Women (the women’s community inside of Indie Hackers)
No, really. During events or multiple chats in a row, I can sometimes feel harried, nervous, and pulled in many different directions. Sometimes it’s helpful (eg during a pause in the conversation or maybe during a time you’ve given people to take a moment to submit their own content) to sit back and play the “What do I notice?” game. (“heart beating” “car going by” “person nodding” “someone smiling”). This can calm me down / bring me out of high anxiety states.
While I don’t recommend doing a full meditation sit while running your own event or talking to another person, being honest about your current “now” will only serve to bring people in. Once I was in a large class and the professor called on a student. He was silent for a moment and then said “Hang on, I’m not dumb, I’m just panicking,” and not only did I not feel derisive, I identified with him and cut him some slack. Most humans will react positively to this type of honesty.
By being open, honest, and present, you’ll notice your battery drains less quickly around other people.
These are all the ways I’ve learned to work with, and around, my shyness and general preferences to be a wallflower. I hope some of them were helpful for you!