Writing is an isolating endeavour which tends to attract those of a more introverted persuasion. Introverts tend to sit back and observe as the world races by – a considerable asset when trying to create realistic worlds and characters.
Writing and introverts go together like strawberries and cream until the authors has to get out in the world and promote their work. Speaking as a massive introvert, networking is my idea of hell – I’d rather cut off my left hand (and I’m left-handed) than go into a room to network. Yet it’s a necessary evil of the career we’ve chosen. So I’ve done a load of research to find a way to make it more palatable and want to share those with my fellow introverts today. I figure if all us introverts stick together, and share our wisdom, we can beat the networking demon together.
Networking for Introverts
In my mind, the word “networking” evokes images of dodgy salesmen attending social events purely to gather contacts and prey on the poor attendees.
When I was a consultant I attended a copious number of business networking events and I sucked at it – I’m just not cut out to go up to strangers and share inane chitter-chatter. My colleagues could never understand because my clients always loved me. Why? Simple really – I’m great one-on-one, where I can have a long, meaningful conversation, but put me in a room full of strangers and a strange phenomenon occurs which knots my tongue and turns me into an aloof ice statue.
So it was a joy to pack away the cocktail dresses and pick up the pen – no more networking I thought. How wrong could I be – it is a critical part of self-publishing your work. But it doesn’t have to be sleazy, or awful because when it comes down to it we all do it everyday in one way or another.
Follow the next steps to turn your unique introvert skills into a networking advantage…..
Step One: Change your mindset from networking to helping
If you are on any social media platform it’s highly likely that you’ve had a few contacts with new followers who have reached out to say hello and/or offer support. I always like it when someone on Twitter takes the time to ask how my book is going and I always respond. I’d be willing to bet that at least half of them are just as introverted as you and I are.
Instead of networking consider it helping or adding value
So don’t think of it as networking instead consider it building a mutual, remote support system where you help other introverts and they help you. Just think they are probably just as intimidated as you are and just as bewildered about how to promote their work. Join forces and your reach has doubled. So offer to help them, retweet/like their messages and they will most certainly do the same for you. It’s not networking – it’s helping.
Not networking but rather research or concept testing
If you are less motivated by helping and tend to be more analytical it may help if you consider it research or concept testing. Set some predefined goals and targets that you want to get out of for the networking event and then go forth and research. You can celebrate when you hit your goals and targets which may in turn make networking easier for you in the future.
Don’t take it too seriously
The world will not end if you don’t network with the entire room, or Twitter-verse, so you don’t need to take it too seriously. As long as you remember that at least one third of the people are probably just as nervous as you (that’s guaranteed as we introverts make up between one third and half the population) and would probably kiss your toes in thanks if you approach them – I know I would. So have a little fun – approach the people on their own looking nervous or join the buffet queue and chat to the people in front or behind you. Get there early when there aren’t many people and go when you’ve had enough. It’s really not that serious or big a deal.
Make certain you are prepared with:
- interesting topics you can discuss to keep the conversation flowing
- A range of simple excuses to leave before the conversation dwindles “I’d better let you go but before you do may I have a business card” or “Don’t let me keep you to myself any longer but I’d love a business card if you have one”.
Step Two: Take it one person at a time
I find it easier to focus on building one relationship at a time, most introverts do. We are built for one-on-one interactions and most of us excel at them and can build really strong relationships and if you think about it there is far more value in a few, relevant and deep relationships than copious surface level ones. So work to identify the gatekeepers and key contacts you’d like to contact and think about how you can add value to them ( maybe retweet/like their content, ask if you can interview them, or refer to them in articles etc) and with time they’ll come to recognise your name and will return the favours. It’s really a game of quality not quantity and no-one does relationships as well as an introvert – so sprinkle a little of your introvert magic.
Step Three: Network on your terms
There is absolutely nothing wrong with being an introvert in fact the world would be a much poorer place without us but it makes total sense to work to your strengths so define how, when and where you are at your best and recreate that environment when you network. If you are a night owl, that comes to life after dark, then ensure you only attend networking events in the evening. If noisy environments impact your ability to network then go to, or organise, networking events in quieter locations. If you find that you shine when talking about your interests, join a club or a society on that subject. Try to stretch yourself to go that little bit further but when you feel your energy is failing and you can’t maintain it any longer then give yourself a pat on the back and retire quietly.
Step Four: Focus on adding value
I personally think we all dread networking because it feels like we are trying to get something for nothing and that feels downright sleazy. But in reality a network is co-dependant and therefore should be providing equal value. Now you can’t control the value that people provide you but you most certainly can make damn certain that you provide every contact with the maximum value possible. In doing that you will build a reputation as a reliable and valued contact and people will feel inclined to return your support. From my perspective that makes much more sense than going out and trying to take advantage of someone else’s hard work and effort.
How can you add value?
- Always follow up with some resources and information after the initial contact.
- Maintain regular but valuable contact on at least a monthly basic. Even if only to send links with the message – “I saw this and thought it might interest you”.
- If you’ve read their blog and taken any advice let them know how it worked out and what you learnt – people love to hear that their advice is good.
- Leave insightful comments on their blog or reviews of their work.
- Ask a question that you really need the answer to and then tell them that you’ll get back to them with the results you’ve achieved following their advice.
- Connect them with another contact you have that will be of genuine value to them.
Step Five: Become a centre of excellence and expertise
One way to minimise the amount of networking that you have to do is to find a way to draw people to you. If you become known as an expert of note in your area you can bet your bottom dollar that you will find people flocking to you for advice, articles, quotes and interviews. It’s a bit of a long term strategy and you have to dedicate a lot more time to it than you would simple networking events but it also has additional benefits that can help you gain more exposure and visibility which can only help you market your books more effectively.
Step Six: Take control
I’m always happier hosting events than attending them because it gives me the chance to legitimately flit from person to person and I always feel that I have a role to play – maybe that’s just me being a control freak but I think most introverts are happier when they have a clearly defined role. This way you can also control the venue, who you invite and the purpose and timing of the event. Generally this means you can optimise the event to ensure you are at your very best.
Tips to help you network face-to-face
- Be prepared – have conversation points and questions ready to help keep the conversation flowing. Extroverts will love you because they love talking about themselves and introverts will be gratefully that you are keeping the conversation alive – it’s a win-win.
- Arrive early – it’s so much simpler to approach a person on their own when the room is nearly empty than to approach a group of six already deep in conversation.
- Open body language – no one is going to approach someone with crossed arms and a ‘go-away’ face. So keep an eye on your body language and try to have an open and smiley persona that welcomes people.
- Keep your hands occupied – the hands will give away nerves faster than anything else so try to keep your hands occupied by holding something or just holding each other. This helps to hide and even steady your nerves.
- Have a goal – if you set yourself a goal this will help to motivate you to stay and continue when your inner voice is screaming “get the heck out of here” and it helps you to feel you’ve really achieved something when you reach it.
- Remember to breathe – breath is the font of life and it certainly is the steadier of nerves so remember to centre yourself with deep breaths.
- Be kind to yourself – take breaks from time to time to re-centre yourself. Grab a drink or look at your mobile so people don’t come up to you and just take a moment or two of peace. I will often go to the bathroom as you can guarantee no-one will bother you in the stall; whatever floats your boat but take the time you need. When you have stretched yourself and feel like you are flagging and can’t continue – don’t berate yourself instead celebrate your success and gracefully bow out with the knowledge that you did a great job.
If you have stuck with me throughout this long, long post – thank you, I admire your patience. It was only meant to be a relatively short post but it grew and grew and I’m guessing to have persevered you must be a real introvert.
IntroClub – A Marketing Co-operative for Introverted Authors
As I wrote the article it suddenly came to me that there is great power in unity so I’ve decided to open a IntroClub in which we can all support each others marketing initiatives and help each other succeed. If that concept appeals to you please sign up below. I will work out the logistics of it all in the coming days and write more on the subject. But in principle I think it could be a mailing list with help requests posted and based on reciprocal support.
If you are interested in reading more on the subject I recommend the following:
In Quiet, the international bestseller, Susan Cain shows how the brain chemistry of introverts and extroverts differs, and how society misunderstands and undervalues introverts. She gives introverts the tools to better understand themselves and take full advantage of their strengths.
Passionately argued, superbly researched, and filled with real stories, Quiet will permanently change how we see introverts – and how you see yourself.
See more – click here
The Introvert’s Guide to Success in Business and Leadership by Lisa Petrilli
This eBook is for introverts who want to use their introversion to their advantage in business and leadership, and for extroverts who lead introverts and wish to be more effective leaders. You can achieve the success you want!
Download the eBook to get started now!
* The difference between Introverts and Extroverts in the business world
* Successful networking strategies and their critical importance
* Standing out in a crowd – comfortably
* Processing ideas and making leadership decisions
* Core principles of succeeding in business and leadership
* How to effectively reach out to others ………
See more – click here