Networking tips for introverts
We talked to Karen Sinclair, general manager at Norra Bantorget and an expert in networking. She shares her own networking tips for the more retiring types who want to be better at meeting new people in social situations, such as events or conferences.
Tips for people who aren't born social butterflies
In an increasingly extroverted world in which the demand for social skills is ever increasing, networking has become an integral part of our job. Statistics also show that 4 out of 5 jobs are filled through contacts – disappointing figures for all introverts. Feeling uncomfortable whilst networking is part and parcel of being an introvert.
"I love networking"
Karin Sinclair works as general manager at Scandic Norra Bantorget, a role that involves a lot of social events, often several times a week. But this isn't something she sees as a negative; quite the opposite. Many of the events aren't even work-related.
"I love networking because it's such fun to meet new people. That's probably why I ended up in the hotel industry: because I get to meet the whole world at my workplace", she says.
Networking is often associated with discomfort
But although she often networks for fun, Karin also sees it as part of her job description. She attends business networking events at least once a week.
"That doesn't necessarily mean that I go around promoting the hotel. But rather that I'm promoting the brands – Scandic and Karin Sinclair. And it's always good to make new contacts, both in the business and personal world. I've actually met many of my friends at different networking events", she says. But being born a super-networker is a rare luxury. Most people actually associate networking opportunities with great discomfort, where they're forced to leave their comfort zone without a safety net.
There is help for introverts
According to certain research, you can even determine a personality type using just an invitation to a networking event – if the first reaction is: how can I get out of it? then that person is probably an introvert. "But there are a few things that they can keep in mind", says Karin. Small tips from her networking career that can make things a little easier for the uncomfortable networker.
The first tip is to arrive well prepared. "Prepare comments, opening lines and a list of 5 useful questions. Simple openers, perhaps about the food, the weather, or the lecturer who has just spoken. So make sure you read about the event in advance, maybe even about the guests attending. Then it's easier to keep up with the conversations".
"And it's always a good idea to arrive at a networking event early", she goes on to explain. Especially for the introverted. That way you can connect with the other guests as soon as they enter the room, as opposed to arriving at an event that's already underway and where everyone has already had time to get to know each other.
Something that may sound obvious, yet is easy to forget, is to smile. Preferably all the time. And dare to make eye contact. After all, this is the best way to make contact with other people. And when contact has been established – ask lots of questions about the person in question.
"People love to talk about themselves. So be interested and ask a lot of questions, then you'll quickly become popular", explains Karin.
"Don't take it too seriously"
At the same time she points out with some irony, that one of the better tips is actually not to take the networking tips too seriously. Not to focus on becoming a professional networker immediately – as with everything else a lot of practice is needed before you fully master the art of networking. She thinks that sticking to a successful networking checklist may just cause additional stress.
"Don't try too hard and don't be too pushy. Respect other people's personal space and accept that it will take time. We're all children to begin with".
She saves the best tip for last. Meant to be used when everything goes wrong.
"Go into the ladies or gents toilet and look at yourself in the mirror. Then laugh out loud at the situation, which releases endorphins. Then you go out and try again", says Karin.
Karin's 5 best networking tips:
- Come prepared – read about the event and have some questions ready.
- Come early and connect first – so you don't get left out
- Smile – and dare make eye contact
- Don't ask too much of yourself – you don't need to be an expert immediately
- Laugh at yourself – if everything goes wrong, take a break and laugh at yourself