Networking as a Solopreneur
Networking is a valuable strategy for making real-life connections. When you work for yourself, it can sometimes be a solitary journey. Therefore, being able to go out and meet like-minded solopreneurs seems like a wise idea, especially when you acquire a client after just a few meetings.
Challenges for Introverts
However, for introverts, networking can pose significant challenges. Not only do we feel drained after nearly every such event, regardless of whether the experience was positive or not, but there are also several things introverts tend to keep to themselves about networking. In this blog post, I aim to candidly express these thoughts. My motivation stems from a desire to dispel any misconceptions about networking being all sunshine and joy. So, let’s dive into it.
Early Networking Experiences
I embarked on networking during the early stages of my solopreneur journey, and I must admit, my very first paying client originated from one of these events. Yet, I still vividly recall the uncomfortable feeling of being in a room filled with people. The noise, the distractions, small talk, chit-chat, and the need to repeat yourself – these are just some of the challenges. Conversations often commence with “What do you do?” rather than “Who are you?” Many attendees come to networking events with the sole purpose of talking about themselves. As a proficient listener, I patiently engage without interruption, asking questions to maintain the flow of conversation.
The Ideal Interaction for an Introvert
Personally, I find solace when another introvert senses my vibe and approaches me. This often leads to deep conversations characterized by mutual understanding and an unspoken alignment of thoughts. With the right conversational partner, I transition from shying away to thriving. In fact, the transformation is so pronounced that many are surprised when I reveal, “I’m an introvert.” You’ve likely experienced those moments when you engage in banter with someone, when you’re on the same wavelength, and it feels as if you’ve known each other forever. It’s like finding your introverted soulmate. More often than not, these conversations extend beyond the event, potentially evolving into collaborations or lasting friendships. After all, who wouldn’t want a client who shares the same wavelength?
The Dreaded 60-Second Pitch
Following the initial group networking, the pivotal moment of the event arrives: the 60-second pitch. This is a moment that most introverts dread, and we’d rather retreat into our shells, secretly hoping someone else could deliver this awkward introduction on our behalf. It’s hard to say which aspect is more daunting: talking about yourself or speaking while being the center of attention. The fear of whether what you say makes sense or if you’ll cover all the important points haunts you. You avoid eye contact, as it can be intimidating, and your mind can misinterpret every glance: “Are they judging me? Do I have something on my face? Is my outfit appropriate?”
Overcoming Pitching Anxiety
Just before it’s your turn, your heart rate escalates, your palms grow sweaty, and you can barely hear what the person next to you is saying because your brain is already fixated on the fact that you’re next and may well be devoured by a bear! With such heightened stress levels, you almost forget what you intended to say in your introduction. You can’t help but wonder how absurd it is that you can’t simply talk about yourself without this inner drama.
Navigating Awkward Conversations
After the introductions, you scan the room, contemplating with whom you’d like to engage further. You must choose wisely, as you don’t want to end up depleting your repertoire of polite but unenthusiastic responses, such as “Oh really? That’s great! Yeah! Yeah. I know! Oh wow!”
Introverts in Group Conversations
You politely initiate conversations with those nearby or join ongoing discussions. Three-way conversations present a particular challenge, as engaging with more than one person can be demanding. Typically, you find yourself listening and guiding the conversation. While you open up when someone asks, “What about you?” your responses tend to be succinct, as your preference is to return to asking questions and listening. However, this can be challenging in a noisy environment, leaving your brain feeling exhausted. Your struggle to recall and correctly pronounce people’s names further adds to the cognitive load. Some names are straightforward, while others are baffling, despite name tags clinging to your attire. You excel at remembering faces, but names can elude you, particularly in certain cases. To avoid faux pas, you strive to sustain conversations without invoking the other person’s name.
The Relief of Conclusion
After a few chats, business cards exchanged, and coffee consumed, you’d gladly retreat to a quiet corner to gather your thoughts or take a moment of respite. However, the question of “What would others think of me!?” often keeps you lingering until it feels both safe and polite to bid goodbye. You express gratitude and anticipate the possibility of reuniting next year, once you’ve recovered from the sensory overload and information inundation.
I may have portrayed the networking experience for introverts in a somewhat exaggerated manner, but I believe the essence is clear. Of course, there are events that I thoroughly enjoy, leaving me invigorated with positive energy and vibes. Although I still feel drained, I’m motivated to forge connections with the individuals I’ve met, and in some cases, this leads to acquiring new clients.
Empathy for Fellow Introverts
I want to extend my empathy to your introverted nature and assure you that you are not alone. If any of the thoughts expressed above resonate with you, rest assured that there’s nothing wrong with you. Your introversion is, in fact, your superpower. Embrace it, leverage it, and confidently shine in environments where you feel comfortable and authentic.
Thoughts About Networking Introverts Don’t Want to Share
- Small talk is inherently exhausting, regardless of our proficiency in it.
- Our true forte lies in deep conversations, where we can exchange ideas, engage in banter, and almost read each other’s minds.
- We are exceptionally attuned to the energy of others. Consequently, being in a room teeming with people leaves us drained, often necessitating rest.
- The enigmatic duality of introverts – remarkably sensitive yet gifted with a unique superpower. At times, it may feel like a curse, but it is indeed our strength.
- While we excel at active listening, even our well-practiced attention span reaches its limit.
- When we find ourselves disliking someone, it becomes evident without uttering a word. Engaging in conversation with them feels awkward as we strive to maintain politeness while plotting an escape. Authenticity is paramount to us, and interacting with individuals who don’t align with our values feels inauthentic.
- Comparing ourselves to others and fretting over their perceptions often leads to self-doubt.
- The infamous 60-second pitch remains uncomfortably daunting, even when we’ve rehearsed meticulously and delivered it flawlessly. A nagging doubt lingers: Was it good?
- The constant requirement to smile and maintain pleasantness is exhausting, especially when paired with someone with whom you sense no connection. In the past, this may have made you question your character, but now you understand that it’s part of being human.
- Recalling people’s names can be a challenge. While some names are easy to remember, others seem insurmountable. Despite nametags affixed to clothing, it often takes considerable effort. Although faces are imprinted in our memory, names can prove elusive in certain cases. This makes it essential to engage in conversation without inadvertently invoking someone’s name.
Introvert-Friendly Networking Strategies
So, how can introverts navigate networking authentically, fuelling themselves with positive energy and bolstering their confidence? I’ve devised several tactics that I continue to practice. However, it’s crucial to acknowledge that, in life, we can’t always predict or control outcomes.
- Attend networking events with the intention of enjoying yourself, rather than solely focusing on selling.
- Approach networking as an opportunity to meet intriguing individuals, rather than a means to secure clients.
- Embrace networking as a platform for forging friendships, not just securing business relationships.
- Adequately prepare and practice your 60-second pitch. Understand that this segment is a standard component of networking events, and take the opportunity to introduce yourself confidently. Remember, approximately 80% of attendees share your apprehension.
- Be discerning when choosing networking groups. Don’t feel compelled to attend every event in your vicinity. Experiment with a few, and settle on two that align with your preferences.
- Don’t be daunted by the presence of others in the group who operate in the same industry as you do. Recognize that YOUR ideal client will be drawn to YOU. Pose this question to yourself: “Would I want to be a client of my ‘competitor’?” If the answer is negative, rest assured that your ideal client feels similarly and will seek you out. In contrast, if the answer is affirmative, explore potential collaborations or opportunities for learning from them. Don’t view them as a threat.
- Consider networking as a research endeavour. Approach events with a mindset geared toward asking questions that can inform the creation of an offering tailored to address these inquiries or inspire your future content.
- Refrain from overextending yourself with an excessive number of networking events. Aim for a maximum of two per week, and avoid networking when you’re feeling less than your best or drained, such as around your period.
The Value of Networking for Introverts
Despite the challenges inherent to networking, I steadfastly believe it represents an exceptional strategy for connecting with like-minded individuals in the business sphere, establishing friendships, and ultimately, acquiring clients. In my case, I’ve attended numerous networking events in my area, but I’ve chosen to stick with just two groups. Even within these select groups, I sometimes require moments of respite, retreating to the sanctuary of my home office.
Creating a Niche for Introverts: Simply Inspired Business Networking
At a certain juncture, I felt compelled to establish my own networking group catering to the unique needs of introverts. I realised that my most rewarding networking experiences occurred when I engaged in discussions close to my heart. These discussions allowed me to share my ideas, knowledge, and experiences while gaining inspiration from others. I also sought to transform the dreaded 60-second pitch into a more enjoyable and less stressful experience. This realisation led to the inception of the Simply Inspired Business Networking and Brainstorming sessions. My vision involved conducting monthly meetings with a limited attendance of just ten individuals, as larger groups tend to amplify noise and overwhelm introverts. Each meeting revolves around a specific theme, fostering relaxed and enjoyable introductions. While I currently facilitate these sessions, my future plans include inviting other experts to lead discussions. If you’re on the lookout for a networking group tailored to your preferences, I extend an invitation to join the Simply Inspired Business Networking and Brainstorming Sessions.
I hope that these reflections on networking resonate with you to some extent. I felt compelled to share these thoughts with the hope that fellow introverted solopreneurs experiencing similar feelings won’t perceive themselves as outliers. Rest assured, there is nothing wrong with you. Your introversion is not a weakness but a superpower. Utilize it as a strength, and confidently shine in environments where you feel comfortable and genuine.
You’ve Got This, My Friend!