Networking events are energizing for some and debilitating for others. If you’re the type of person whose battery is charged by social interactions, these events are a unique opportunity for you and probably don’t happen enough throughout the year.
While I am in awe of these energy magnets, I am most certainly not one of them. In fact, just thinking about this makes me want to hibernate. But sometimes we must go forth and network. New clients, colleagues, friends, and lessons await, so I’ll share some tips for navigating work events as an introvert.
Do your research.
If at all possible, find out who the attendees will be. If there are speakers or sponsors, know them too. Look up people on LinkedIn to see how you might be connected. It is exponentially easier to introduce yourself when there’s a shared connection. You could even reach out to people before networking events to lock in a few people you’ll “know” at the event and make for easier in-person introductions. Also, ensure you know the presented topics or the event’s theme. Come prepared with some information or opinion on them. This can start a conversation and make small talk easier if small talk isn’t your specialty.
This sounds counterintuitive, I know. It’s easy to think that getting there late is better because it minimizes your time at the event. I’ve tested this approach too many times at this point. The truth is, getting there late means everyone else has already made their early connections, and the groups are bigger. Seats or tables might be hard to find. The music is often louder. It’s all just more overwhelming. Do yourself a favor and get there early.
Make one connection ASAP.
Take advantage of your early arrival to find someone to befriend right away. Introduce yourself to a speaker or a sponsor. Find one of the connections you found on LinkedIn. Look for another solo person (let’s be honest, no one enjoys standing awkwardly alone while others mingle). Making one connection early on can unlock further connections, as one person introduces you to another.
Of course, there are other ways to reduce anxiety and stress when attending a work event, like bringing a colleague or skipping it altogether. Unfortunately, that’s not always possible. For those times that you do still need to attend alone, be prepared and have a plan. Feel confident going into the event and remind yourself that many other people there feel exactly the same way you do. There’s so much to gain from these events, so breathe deep, socialize, and know you can hibernate for as long as you need to afterward.