So, what have been the biggest changes that you have experienced in 2020? One of the biggest shifts for me has been around my relationship with networking. Until recently I always saw networking as a means to an end – not something that I particularly enjoyed, but an activity that all business owners and professionals should do. I hate the word ‘should’ by the way, but that’s another blog post!
So, what changed? Well, Covid has meant that all networking moved online, which made things easier for the quieter among us. As you know, I am a proud introvert, but walking into a room of people I scarcely know expected to strike up conversations is absolutely not my happy place. Online networking meant we all had our turn to speak, plus randomly allocated breakout rooms ensured that I spoke to people I would unlikely have spoken to if we were in a room together. I have enjoyed networking over the past few months far more than I have in the past.
Networking has also allowed me to make some wonderful connections this year and LinkedIn via The Quietly Successful Summit introduced me to Matthew and his work with Introverts. Due to that connection, I have been lucky enough to preview Matthew Pollard’s new book about networking: The Introvert’s Edge to Networking, which will be out in January 2021.
Matthew’s book arrived at the right time for me. By focusing on networking entirely for introverts, he gives focused, practical advice for the quieter among us. Many people assume that the only way to network is to be extrovert, but Matthew identifies how introverts really can have the edge when is comes to making new connections. The key is to work with, rather than against your introversion.
There is a lot of outdated thinking when it comes to networking, and one of Matthew’s tactics that I loved was focus on the connections, and not on the sales. There will be different kinds of people that you may meet in a networking meeting such as advocates for your business, collaborators and of course potential clients – or as Matthew refers to them champions, momentum partners and prospects. Making connections in the room may well lead to sales, but as an introvert I know that we hate to be sold to and will more likely retreat.
The key is to focus on genuine connections and offering help and value to them. Too many people only think of what networking can do for them and approach it in broadcast fashion, only talking about what it is they do. This is exhausting to listen to and off-putting as an introvert. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be this way. Networking isn’t about competition, it’s about connection – and it is from genuine connection that opportunities and business can arise.
Introverts generally like to be prepared, and Matthew has come great suggestions about how to do this when it comes to networking. He underlines that what’s important in networking is not the sheer number of business cards that you come away with, but creating and fostering deep connections with people who resonate with you and your business. This is something I can totally relate to. For me a few deep, relevant connections are far more important than simply how many I have.
The book contains practical suggestions such as researching who will be at a meeting and connecting with them beforehand so you can go into a meeting with a focus, having already have started to forge connections. There is also a framework for how to present yourself and how to make what you do more memorable. The key here is about telling stories; and Matthew provides clear steps and suggestions of how best to do this in a way that is authentic to you an introvert. I was also interested in the science behind why people remember more detail when they are told a story rather than just disparate facts.
Introverts are also great listeners and it is through active listening that we are able to spot synergies and areas of mutual interest. Being prepared and knowing what you are going to say takes a lot of the pressure out of a networking situation. It means that you can relax, listen deeply and enjoy it – yes really – while knowing that you have got plenty to say that will resonate with your potential clients and collaborators. Taking these simple steps will allow your authenticity and passion to shine through.
I would highly recommend The Introvert’s edge to Networking to anyone who is looking to make powerful connections for their business or career. Matthew’s book contains many practical, focused, strategic introvert-friendly techniques.
I now feel that in 2021 I will be taking my networking to the next level and am so excited about the new connections I will be making, because 2020 has been pretty awesome on that front already.
One tip that I would add in, is to ensure you factor in pre-charge and recharge time when networking. Us introverts can be drained by social interaction, which is why it is all the more important to focus your energy wisely to make connections that will serve you well in the future. Matthew’s book will help you do just this and really make the most of your introvert’s edge.