Networking events may seem intimidating to introverted students, but they don’t have to be. The key is preparation: setting realistic expectations while playing to your strengths.
Be sure to remember to smile and show that you’re open for dialogue. Carry a notepad so you can discreetly jot down important information after meeting new people.
1. Prepare for the event.
Students seeking to become more confident networkers could benefit from prepping for events beforehand by creating an elevator pitch that describes who they are and what they do, and searching the guest list for individuals they might wish to meet.
Setting goals for an event can also help attendees remain focused and on track during its entirety. For instance, setting specific objectives at a mix and mingle networking session may encourage attendees to approach more people quickly in a shorter amount of time – similar to creating competitions to see who can collect the most business cards or meet more individuals at once.
Students should ensure their social media, LinkedIn profiles and professional affiliations accurately portray the image they wish to present – this will ensure any potential contacts aren’t turned off by personal details or unsuitable opinions that could hinder forming meaningful connections. Furthermore, they should review their wardrobe to make sure they arrive to each event dressed accordingly.
2. Bring a wingman.
Students often find raising their hand and joining group discussion intimidating, particularly introverted students who need time to process before responding. But that doesn’t mean they don’t engage with the material and have great insights to contribute; one simple solution would be providing different means for them to share their ideas; for instance a class message board or group chat app could allow students to answer questions at their own pace and level the playing field with respect to participation.
Notepads or writing implements with you will help ensure you can take good notes at events, allowing you to record information like names and organizations of people you meet as well as follow up afterward with them easily – whether this means just recording their name and contact info or making note of specific advice they provided you with.
3. Bring a notepad.
One of the best things you can bring with you to any event is a notebook and pen. While your phone may tempt you, using an actual writing tool is much more discrete.
Writing down notes during networking events is absolutely crucial. From speed networking sessions to simply meeting people, having a way to remember information gathered about others helps facilitate future follow up with them more easily.
Group work can be particularly daunting for introverted individuals, particularly when there is an extrovert at the forefront. Offering preparatory assignments prior to class or allowing silent reflection beforehand can give introverts time to process their ideas before sharing them, helping reduce anxiety when sharing in large group settings. Susan Cain suggests students who find sharing ideas difficult request an individual presentation instead.
4. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Experienced networking event-goers know the strain can be immense when first attending. If you find it difficult to engage in the conversation, reach out for assistance from someone. An introduction could come in the form of another attendee or one of the panelists; just asking can help break the ice and begin building trust between individuals at an event.
Networking events provide an opportunity to meet people and form relationships, but they may also bring out your inner critic. Try tuning out this noise and focus on building meaningful connections with those you meet during networking events.
At the conclusion of an event, ensure to reach out to those you met by sending personalized emails or adding them on LinkedIn or simply following them on Twitter – this shows your genuine interest and opens doors for future discussions.
5. Don’t be afraid to leave.
Fear of leaving events can thwart networking efforts. Be it the fear of going back to “old me”, being seen as an idiot or simply not wanting to be there anymore, such fears often result in people taking sweaty laps around the room or visiting the loo several times, as well as distracting themselves by using their phones in an effort to appear busy enough and avoid eye contact with people at an event.
Networking can be tiring, so it’s essential to understand when you have reached your networking limit. If you feel fatigued after engaging in conversation for an extended period, try taking a more casual exit route such as saying you need the restroom or need another drink while still suggesting it would be great to meet again later on.
If you find yourself drawn to someone at an event, reach out via social media or the event app and arrange to meet afterward – this way, building relationships without becoming overwhelmed is possible! A cup of coffee or lunch with someone new can be an ideal way to begin networking in an informal way.