NCET helps you explore business and technology
By Kurt Thigpen
If you’re like me, an introvert, approaching strangers at networking events goes against the grain of who I am. I am not very good at small talk and trying to sell myself to a room full of strangers makes me feel like a snake oil salesman (sorry to the actual snake oil salesmen).
My nature is to sit back, observe, and only speak when spoken to. But, in the world of business – that’s not a luxury we can afford as networking is crucial to building new relationships, and ultimately growing one’s client base and career.
So, where does an introvert begin in an extrovert’s world? I have some tips to share that have served me well over the years.
- Bring a buddy. If I’m going to a networking event for the first time, I always ask who else is going. This way, it’s not so intimidating to be in a room full of strangers. If no one you know is going, invite a friend to tag along with you. This way you won’t feel the need to check where the nearest exits are.
- Get introduced. When I’m with folks I know at networking events, they tend to introduce me to new people that they know. I love this approach because it’s way more authentic and natural than approaching someone out of the blue. Also, if there is someone you really want to meet, just ask your colleague if they’d be so kind to make an introduction.
- Be yourself. When you’re talking to a new acquaintance, it’s tempting to panic and go straight into that pitch you’ve recited about you and your skills. Don’t do that. It’s a conversation STOPPER. Just be yourself. Ask the other person about them and let the conversation flow naturally. I promise you’ll get around to talking shop, but first you need to establish a good dialogue.
- Take it slow. You don’t need to talk to everyone. I get anxious with mixers that require you to talk to 3 or more people. It feels forced and drains my energy. Figure out who is there, and talk to folks you want to meet, vs. random folks. It’s a better use of your time.
- It’s okay to bail. If you’re in a situation where you know “these are not my people” I am giving you permission to bail, whether you need to get some air, or are just trying to live to fight another day. Networking well takes practice and isn’t something you get right on the first try. At least you made it!
I hope you find these tips to be useful, and if you see me at a networking event, be sure to say hi! But, don’t approach me from behind. This introvert scares easily.
Kurt Thigpen is CEO at Ace Studios and NCET’s VP of UI/UX. Ace Studios is a multimedia marketing and creative agency based in Reno, NV (www.acestudios.co). NCET is a member-supported non-profit that produces educational and networking events to help people explore business and technology.