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An introvert’s guide to networking

Unlike extroverts, we, introverts, love our own little bubble and love to keep it to ourselves. This is especially true in my case. Work from home and using primarily email and chat is just heaven. Unfortunately, this doesn’t work too well when it comes to networking.

Networking takes a lot of energy. I started four years ago, and it was quite a learning curve, to say the least. Here are some things I picked up along this journey.

No pressure

I already have a no. I go to these events to meet people and potentially change that to a yes. In other words. I have literally nothing to lose, I can only win. This approach instantly takes off a lot of the pressure.

Preparation is key

My first-ever networking event was with BNI. I had no clue what it was about. I got there early for the normal casual chit-chat. The team was welcoming, so I felt okay after only a little while. We got into the formal part, and little did I know what was coming. My first ever 60-second pitch. Improvised. On. The. Spot. To date, I still have no idea what I said…

Improvisation is not for most of us. Knowing what’s coming takes the edge off. The more I know beforehand, the more energy I can use for the event. When is it, what is it about, where do I park, how many people, is there a structure, …, and so on. The fewer decisions these bits need, the more energy I have for the event itself.

New pitch every time?

A calm week makes it challenging to come up with a new angle for my pitch. Sometimes, there is just nothing new to talk about. Lockdown came to the rescue. During the online meetings, I started documenting my ideas and pitches. Now I have a library of these, and if I have nothing new to talk about, I just dust off an older one. No one remembers what I said, let’s say, a year ago 😀 If it’s a busy week, I get new ideas both for the pitch and my library.

Structure is awesome

Have you ever gone to a networking event just to find that it’s just a pile of people in a room, and you have no idea where to start? This is why I like structure. I know what’s coming and can have a plan of attack. I’m still struggling with small talk. Structure, in most cases, eliminates the need for it.

It’s okay to be anxious

Networking slowly started becoming easier, but I was still very anxious. “I have no idea what I’m doing”, “I’m saying everything all wrong,” and similar thoughts filled my head. It was about the 5th BNI session when I decided to do a bit of people-watching. I focused on how not what people say. I was quite surprised to learn that, except for the very seasoned people, everyone was just as nervous as I was.

You’re not as bad as you think

Along the lines of being anxious, I always want perfect. People are much more interested in what you say than how you do it and what small mistakes you make. Usually, they are genuinely curious and interested, so minor mistakes are okay.

Wingmen are not just for dating

Being social can be very draining. Breaks/mini retreats help me recharge. I prefer to go to events with at least one person I know. This way, when I need a break, I can lean on them – keep talking but take the pressure off for a moment. Recharge without losing the momentum.

Have an escape plan

What happens when none of your techniques work, the whole thing becomes too much, and you just want to get out? Disappearing without a word is not the nicest method, especially when the person who invited you is there. I know at the very beginning how I would leave – who do I say goodbye to, and what reason “makes me leave”.

Know your limits

As I got more and more confident, I started testing different groups. As most run regularly, this meant multiple groups at the same time. On a glorious Friday, I had four events lined up, with some breaks in between. At the end of the day, I was so exhausted that I ended up cancelling everything for the coming week. I needed to recharge. That taught me that I can attend a maximum of two events daily and four weekly without overusing my social energy.

Should we just leave this to the extroverts?

Just because we do it differently, it’s not any worse. Though it takes a lot of energy, we can use our traits to our advantage. We do not talk to as many people as extroverts do and certainly do not do it so effortlessly, but thanks to our good listening skills and our default analytic curiosity, we can build much more memorable and longer-lasting relationships. You know, quality over quantity.


What are your tips for networking? What did I miss?