In-person networking for introverts

About 11 years ago, I decided to go to a conference in Poland, which was all about a web internet framework that I was using at the time. The first day went well, and I had a decent enough time. They had a party afterwards, so I got to speak to a few people and made a couple of friends. It was quite nice. However, on the second day, I don’t think I spoke to a single person.

At these conferences, they had a thing called lightning talks that you could submit at the beginning of each day. If there was time at the end, you could do a lightning talk. I prepared one, put my name down, and the next evening, I was called to deliver my talk. It turned out to be one of the best things I’ve ever done. I talked about being nervous, scared, and being an introvert. It was the first time I had ever done anything like that. Surprisingly, it ended up being the best thing because I had an amazing night. I met a bunch of people and ended up staying up until 4 in the morning. I was late for the next part of the conference the next day.

Fast forward two years, the conference was in Cardiff. Someone got in touch with me on my birthday and asked me to speak on day zero of the conference. I gave a talk, and it was really cool. But again, on the second day, I felt alienated. Two years later, after gaining some experience, I decided to submit my own talk. I submitted a proper full-blown talk, and it was held in a cinema in Florence. It was a great experience. I walked off stage and met quite a few people who had seen me on stage and complimented my talk. It was a pretty good time.

Now, some people say that you get out of networking what you put in, but I don’t think that’s entirely true. I believe it’s all about your mindset and attitude when approaching networking. With a slightly different mindset of openness and a willingness to make connections and even make mistakes, you can open yourself up to opportunities and minimize embarrassment.

Here are my 10 tips for networking if you identify as an introvert:

  1. Make a bet with yourself to talk to just one person or get one person’s contact details. Set a goal to make at least one meaningful connection before leaving an event.
  2. Bring stickers related to your company or interests to give away. It can serve as an icebreaker and make starting conversations easier.
  3. If you feel up to it, challenge yourself to collect as many Instagram handles or other contact information as possible. Make it a game to see how many connections you can make.
  4. Carry a microphone or recorder and ask people for impromptu interviews for a podcast (even if you don’t have one). This can spark interesting conversations and provide a reason to connect further.
  5. If possible, try to secure a speaking opportunity at an event. It may be intimidating, but it’s a great way to make yourself known and have people approach you.
  6. Remind yourself that you are not the most anxious person in the room. Many others may be feeling the same way, and by approaching someone with a calm and supportive attitude, you can create a connection.
  7. Embrace the role of the most interesting person in the room. If you have given a talk or have a notable presence, use it as an opportunity to attract people and engage in conversations.
  8. Don’t be afraid to simply introduce yourself to others. Just saying “Hi, I’m [your name]” can be enough to start a conversation, as networking events are meant for meeting new people.
  9. Look for groups in the room and ask if you can join their conversation. This can be an easier way to initiate a discussion and be welcomed into a group setting.
  10. Research the attendees beforehand if possible. Look for their names and profiles on social media platforms like LinkedIn, Instagram, or Twitter. Recognizing someone at the event and starting a conversation can make networking feel more comfortable.

Remember, one high-quality connection is better than multiple superficial ones. Take breaks to decompress and be kind to yourself throughout the networking process.

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