I do love going out. I get ideas, I meet interesting people, I form connections—all vital things to my personal wellbeing and to the health of my business.
But if I don’t stay mindful of managing my energy, the stimulation of big events can quickly feel overwhelming. Then I’m shut down. May as well be at home.
After attending one networking event, I joke that I need to go into my introvert hole to recover. Last week, I had three networking events in four days. Normally I’d try to space them out more, but sometimes you don’t get to say exactly how or when things will go down. They were all great opportunities to be with my people and to promote A Year of Daily Calm, so I went to all three.
Here are the strategies I use to be able to enjoy myself and make meaningful connections:
- Find a cozy spot out of the fray—the couch at the back of the room, the sitting area just off the main floor. Park yourself here. People will come and go, and the crowd will naturally be smaller, the people you meet will be the folks who value good conversation over chit-chat, and the space will feel more intimate making the whole affair more enjoyable.
- Wear something unique. Striking up conversations is tough for introverts, because they typically like to be invited to join anything. But if you wear something out-of-the-ordinary—a pin, a hat, a hot pink bag—people will comment on it. Boom, you’re in the flow of conversation without having to break in.
- Lead with a complement. For those people in attendance whom you don’t know and are hoping to meet, you likely will need to approach them (instead of sitting on the couch and trusting they’ll come to you). Open up a conversation with them by paying them a complement—about their work, their outfit, their hair. The hardest part of meeting people is making that initial connection. This takes care of what to say first. Then you’re off and running.
- Go with a wingwoman. This isn’t always possible, but when you can, it’s nice to have someone to walk in with or to meet up with once you’re there. Ideally, you’ve talked beforehand about what each of your intentions are, just so it’s clear that your intention is not to stay joined at the hip and only talk to each other. Meaning—choose someone who will be OK with going separate ways for a while. You can also introduce each other to new people—I always find it easier to introduce two people than to introduce myself to someone I don’t yet know.
- Set an intention before you go. My intention for any event is almost always the same—I intend to connect with just the right people. That helps you stay observant to who those people might be instead of determined to shake 10 hands and collect 10 business cards.
- Have an exit strategy. If you go with a friend, establish some way to signal when you’re ready to go. Otherwise, have your own mode of transportation so you can leave before your energy bottoms out. The way something ends has a lot to do with how you remember something—and you want to remember networking as something that feels good so that you’ll do more of it in the future.
Because, remember, good things happen when you leave the house!
- Also, if you’re attending a conference, get your own hotel room. You need space to decompress and soak up some solitude. If you’re an introvert, this is well worth the extra money, I promise! (Or, if you really want to cut costs, only room with people you know well who are totally fine with not talking.)
- Save time after the event to be alone. I very purposely made no plans for that fifth day. A whole morning home in my jammies and then a couple hours spent outside in the afternoon had the needle on my energy meter back up in a healthy range—enough to attend a holiday performance by the Boston Pops that evening.
(The kids, on the other hand, had a terrible time at the concert—but that’s a subject for a different post!)
If you fall on the introverted side of the spectrum, how will you make sure you get the alone time you need in the midst of the flurry of activity these next few weeks will bring? Leave a comment below—I’d love to hear your strategies!