Networking as an Introvert: 5 Simple Ways to Connect
Are you an introvert but still long to network at conferences or other events? Maybe the thought of talking to so many new people (or so many people period) makes you break out in hives. Maybe, like me, you wonder how to authentically build your network of connections?
Why I Need to Learn How to Network
The next two weekends, I am attending two different conferences. The first conference is Evolving Faith in North Carolina, put on by Sarah Bessey and Rachel Held Evans. I am attending with two of my very favorite friends and am as excited to spend time with them as I am to dig deeper into the ways my faith is growing and changing.
This is a more personal conference for me, but my faith informs all the work we do with our nonprofit in the heart of Atlanta. As the leader of our nonprofit, I consider it important to connect with other people walking their faith out in authentic ways.
Next weekend, I will fly to Chicago (I bought a coat!) for CCDA. This is one of my favorite conferences, and I am excited to go with the Blueprint 58 team and learn more about how to effectively work on community building in Atlanta. CCDA offers a chance for us to connect with other people loving their neighbors and leading nonprofits/churches across the nation.
If you are anything like me, just the thought of two back-to-back conferences makes you exhausted. As I have stepped into leadership of Blueprint 58, I have learned much about networking/connecting, and I hope these five simple tips for networking as an introvert will help you as you venture into new spaces too.
When You Want to Connect as an Introvert, Remember These 5 Things
For introverts who long for connection (all of us, am I right?), fear and self-doubt can make it hard to reach out. I think, though, that you can simplify everything by resting in how you are uniquely shaped for connection and by remembering a few simple tips.
Reframe “Networking” as “Connecting”
There is something about the idea of “networking” that feels a little icky, isn’t there? Like your goal is to get something from someone else. Instead, try thinking of networking simply as connecting. Connecting feels sacred and valuable, a way to make the world a more beautiful place. And connecting mostly just requires a little bit of bravery, a willingness to put yourself out there and reach across the divide and introduce yourself to someone new.
2. Find Common Ground
One of my favorite places to connect at a conference or event is at the breakout sessions. At a breakout session, you know that everyone there is also interested in what you’re interested in learning about. I have also learned the truth that even those who seem most unlike me probably have more in common than we think. Connection happens on shared ground, but it is what allows us to then reach across our differences.
3. Have Questions Ready
One reason that I’m not a great public speaker is that I’m terrible at preparing before-hand. That said, giving yourself time to think through some questions before you’re in a nervous-introvert situation can be super-helpful. Ask questions as a good starting place for making genuine connections. My favorite one to start: “What brings you here?”
If you’re going to a specific breakout session to learn from the teacher or facilitator, and want to connect with them afterwards, it’s helpful to know what you want to ask and why you want to connect. Because I’m a speed-reader, I also try to read any speaker’s books before-hand so I don’t ask them something they feel like answering with “like I said in my book.”
4. Be Curious and Humble
The older I get, the more I am learning that people can usually sense your intentions. Just like my neighbors don’t want to be “projects,” no one wants to feel like they are being used. Approach people with a posture of mutuality, ask questions about things you are genuinely curious about and actually listen to their answers. Don’t worry about who is more knowledgeable, more popular, or more extroverted. Instead, humbly rest in who YOU are and how you are able to connect uniquely because of how you’re shaped.
5. Know Your Limits
Every once in a while, I am able to step back and recognize when I am just at my connecting/networking limit. Skip a session and find a quiet corner. Recharge with a cup of coffee and some time with your nose in a book (just me?). Slip away and give your soul what it needs to connect from a fullness and not a lack.
Why Connecting as an Introvert Really Matters
Connecting is what makes us human. In a world and an era that feels increasingly splintered, you can move closer to justice and love most concretely through connection. When you are an introvert, it can be tempting to listen only to the people you already know, to surround yourself with comfortable voices and people you know wont reject you. But a life lived bravely poured out, a life spent making an actual difference in the world will require a network of connections that span all the things that divide us.
What are your best tips for networking effectively as an introvert?