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How to Network--Even if You're an Introvert

How to Network--Even if You're an Introvert

Kristi Hedges |

3. Select a few networking organizations and get deeply involved.

In most cities, you could spend every morning and each night at a different networking event. While that might be fine for the first year of your business, it eventually becomes a waste of time.

You get more bang for your time if you pick a few quality organizations that directly touch your market and—even better—your specific customer base. Get involved on a committee or a board so you can build real relationships beyond exchanging business cards. Just make sure you make the time to honor your commitment, or you’ll do your reputation more damage than good.

4. Attend only high-value networking events and make them worth it.

It’s helpful to attend some networking events; just select the few that count. People often envision a roomful of strangers upon whom they have to foist themselves. First of all, if you serve on an organization’s committees, then that group’s networking events will be filled with people you know. It’s much easier to enter a room where there are friendly faces, and you benefit from introducing each other around. Further, you can save yourself a lot of lunches by catching up with multiple folks in your network at one place.

If you don’t know anyone at the event, take a colleague to play wingman, which can make it more comfortable. Instead of trying to meet as many people as possible, focus on having quality conversations with those you do meet. Ask good questions (“how” and “what” questions work best), listen and maintain eye contact rather than look over their shoulder. Try to find personal connection points, whether it’s similar people, jobs or vacation spots.

5. Constantly evaluate your networking activities.

Time is a limited commodity and you must be vigilant about spending yours wisely. Regularly assess what you’re getting out of your networking groups or relationships to determine what you might have to change. If you’re sitting on a professional organization’s committee to get business and you haven’t gotten any, perhaps it’s not the right use of your time.

Networks should evolve and change as your business grows. Never be afraid to call up people who seem out of your league. I’m constantly surprised at how generous people are with their time and advice. Most people feel honored when you ask their opinion. In turn, be generous with your own time when people are referred to you. Business and help often come from unexpected places.

6. Have a system to stay in touch.

This is where analytical types have a leg up. You need a system to make sure you get in touch with your network on a regular basis. Keep a good contact system and look through it regularly. I supplement mine with a running call list of people whose names I add when I think of them. I work through the list on a regular basis by scheduling lunches and coffees or just sending an e-mail.

Don’t contact people only when you need something. Sometimes you have to approach a networking meeting with what you can give rather than what you receive.

I find that these principles continue to be true for me and my clients. We need to see networking as something that benefits us on multiple levels, is part of our jobs and brings real value to our clients. When we are strategic and consistent about it, then we win big.