Networking events can be overwhelming for introverts. I recently had an opportunity to brainstorm with a group of introverts about how to be more effective at networking. Here are some of the tips the group came up with:

  1. Set goals. Decide before the event what you want to accomplish, and don’t leave the event before achieving your goal. For example: How many people you want to meet? Is there a specific organization for which you want to find a contact?
  2. Prepare an introduction. Prepare and practice a brief (15-30 seconds) personal introduction. Knowing what you will say ahead of time makes introductions easier, and the consistent message helps to establish your personal brand. (You don’t want to come across as mechanical and scripted, but you should be able to quickly and clearly explain who you are and what you do.)
  3. Take a break. Be aware of your mood and energy level. For many introverts, working a crowd can be very exhausting, and it can start to show in your body language. If necessary, leave the room for a few moments to refresh and regroup.
  4. Find the food. People are typically more approachable around food. Talking and eating just seem to go together.
  5. Arrive early. Introverts are typically more comfortable in smaller groups, so plan to arrive early when the crowd is smaller. People are often eager to connect with someone as soon as they walk in, so being there early allows you to greet people as they arrive.
  6. Spot the loners. It’s easier to strike up a conversation with someone standing alone than to break into a group conversation.
  7. Practice. Go to several networking events and become more comfortable socializing. Remember that networking is a skill that requires practice. The more you practice, the better you become. Take advantage of safe environments such as church and school events to hone your skills.
  8. Eye contact. It is very tempting for the introvert’s mind to wander. They may be thinking about what to say next, or simply processing what they are hearing. Stay focused on the other person by maintaining good eye contact.
  9. Smile. A genuine smile attracts people to you.
  10. Find a partner. Ask an experienced networker to introduce you to others. It helps break the ice. Be sure to find a way to reciprocate the favor (remember, effective networking is about giving, not getting). Updated 4/5/2007 — thanks to Pete Aldin.

Any other ideas? Please share them.