As part of the NeW Professional Development Week, the Network of enlightened of Women hosted Patti Raush, Vice President of Member Programs at the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors and Co-Founder of Rules of Networking, for a session titled Networking as an Introvert.
Rausch went through the steps of preparation for a networking event, showing up, being present, the roadblocks you might face, and the final follow-up steps.
One of the most important suggestions when building your network is to be intentional about where you are looking to make connections. Attend events that focus on your interests and career goals. For example, if you are a member of NeW and interested in education policy, you would do better off attending an event featuring a speaker from a nonprofit working on education policy rather than an event featuring an environmental policy expert.
To prepare for an upcoming event, Rausch suggested meditation methods to get in the interaction mindset. She also discussed the importance of practicing your elevator pitch beforehand, noting that you want it to be succinct, engaging, and genuine. Introverts tend to be very good at utilizing technology, so she recommended using that to your advantage, explicitly mentioning ChatGPT to help with crafting your pitch, which allows individuals to have human-like conversations using AI technology.
Before an event, it is helpful to research the attendees and the layout of the room in case you need an exit. Don’t be afraid to reach out to the organizer to inquire what the makeup of the audience will be, such as age and career field. Rausch recommended avoiding bringing up topics that individuals usually have strong opinions on. Instead ask more general and less confrontational questions.
Another tip is to set a goal for the event based on what you define as “success.” This can be a specific number of individuals to talk to or staying at the event for a certain length of time.
Don’t forget to take an extroverted friend to an event with you! Let them work the room and just be present and smile. Rausch said, “Extroverts collect people and introverts collect qualities.” Your friend will find a way to tie you into the conversation or pick up on an uncomfortable situation for you.
If you do attend alone, just breathe. Nobody there is judging you. It is also okay to do less talking and be an active listener. Sometimes it is actually better to be the one not talking too much. When you do speak, ask rehearsed questions like, “What brought you here?” or “Is this your first time attending?” if it is an annual event.
Your first couple of events might be rocky and that’s okay! Networking and attending large events do get easier the more you do them. Give yourself some grace and do not stay if you are too uncomfortable or things are not going well. If you need an exit strategy, just politely say you need to use the restroom or get something to drink.
The follow-up and post-event recharge are also very crucial. Again, just breathe. You got through it and now find a way that works best for you to unwind and recover. When you feel back to 100 percent, be sure to send those follow-up emails or messages on LinkedIn to create a lasting positive impression. You should also do an honest self-assessment that focuses on what worked, what didn’t work, where you can improve, and what you should do differently next time.
For your next event, remember to breathe, prepare yourself for what you will say, and walk into the room with confidence and a set goal. Stepping out of your comfort zone is an important part of the growth process, and you can be proud of yourself for taking that step!
Kirsten Golinski is the NeW Development Manager.