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Proof It’s Possible to Successfully Network as an Introvert

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Cluster of attendees networking at conferenceJetta Productions — Getty Images

This piece was originally published on AllBusiness.

If you’re an introvert, you probably wouldn’t say networking is one of your strong suits. Actually, you probably don’t like doing it at all. But you don’t have to be an extrovert to connect with others in your industry. In fact, you may even bring something to the table that no one else can.

Here are strategies via 10 entrepreneurs from Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC):

1. Focus on one or two questions

If you’re an introvert, networking can be daunting. Instead of looking at it as an entirely open-ended exercise, choose one or two questions you’re genuinely interested in asking people when you meet them. If you make the questions count, like “What things inspire you most?” or “What impact do you hope to make on the world?” you can create deep connections with people whose answers inspire you. – Brittany Hodak, ZinePak

2. Focus on giving, not getting

The best way to network is to give before you get. It’s a good life practice, and I’ve found that for everything you give, you get back tenfold. As an introvert, this is a great way to network because you don’t have to be nervous about “the get” or asking for a favor. You’re simply offering your help and will almost always be embraced with open arms. – Elle Kaplan, LexION Capital

3. Set a goal

If you walk in the door with a goal to meet three to five people and have great conversations with them, you’re giving yourself an achievable expectation and a point at which you can self-reflect and decide when to leave. I also recommend showing up during “introverts hour,” which is the first hour of an event when people filter in. That’s when people are looking to find a conversation partner. – Darrah Brustein, Network Under 40/Finance Whiz Kids

4. Connect others

Do your homework ahead of time and focus on connecting others. This can be an easy way to take the focus off yourself, yet you still get to play a big part in the networking role. – Patrick Barnhill, Specialist ID, Inc.

5. Bring a wingman

For any networking event, it can be helpful to have a networking “wingman.” Together, you can naturally draw others into your conversation. This is particularly true if your networking wingman is knowledgeable about an industry you are unfamiliar with. If nothing else, the event will provide you with an opportunity to get to know your networking wingman better. – Doug Bend, Bend Law Group, PC

6. Join a committee

Try joining a club or an association. This way, you can start meeting other business professionals who have something in common with you, giving you a basis to start your conversation. Make sure you attend all the association meetings. Pretty soon, people will recognize you as a regular and will start the conversation with you. – Phil Laboon, Eyeflow Internet Marketing

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7. Connect on social media

One benefit of social media is you can connect with all sorts of people without having to meet them face-to-face. If you do well behind a screen, socialize on social media and build connections; then cement those introductions with in-person meetings. Schedule one or two face-to-face meetings or attend a conference or two every year. – Marcela De Vivo, Brilliance

8. Commit to connecting

Be intentional about practicing your connecting skills. Schedule events on your calendar so you’ll go even when you don’t feel like it. A big advantage you have as an introvert is being a better listener. Harness this ability. People will reveal their hidden intel that you can then use to create fantastic alliances and deals that extroverts couldn’t have pulled off. – Joshua Lee, StandOut Authority

9. Let your content do the talking

If you’re an introvert, stop putting “networking” in a box. Networking isn’t just conferences, events, and meetups. Instead of forcing yourself to speak up when it’s not comfortable (or fun), focus on your strengths. Write. Start a podcast. Take pictures or draw. Find a medium that is aligned with your personality and create a community around your content. Then let your content do the talking. – Robby Berthume, Bull & Beard

10. Take it one step at a time

Bite off a little at a time. True introverts can lose their energy being around people for extended periods of time but still generally enjoy social situations. There are plenty of great networking events that don’t have a set schedule. You can show up for a little while, pass out a few business cards, then excuse yourself. Little by little is better than nothing at all. – Andrew Kucheriavy, Intechnic