ACES 2017 is this week, and it’s time for me to hop on a flight, pick up my name tag, and bravely enter the World of Networking yet again.
As a freelance editor, networking is a necessary evil. For me, ACES is the fun kind of networking (it’s a word-nerd shindig!), but it’s still a great place to hone my skills and practice my getaways (see tip #3) for when I need some time to myself.
Many editors also lean toward the introvert side of the spectrum, but this doesn’t mean we’re inherently bad at networking. In fact, introverts can be even better at networking than our extrovert peers! All it takes is practice.
Here are 9 tips to use at your next networking event:
1. Give yourself time to recharge
Being around a group of strangers for too long can be overwhelming and draining, and if you’re like me (and most introverts), you need time to recharge by yourself in order to be at your best. Make sure you’re giving yourself the alone time you need.
2. Be the third wheel—in a good way
If you walk into a networking event and everyone is already paired up, don’t be shy about spotting the pair that needs to be rescued. (Hint: look for two people who just finished a conversation and seem to be struggling with what to say next.) Walk over and introduce yourself, and you’re off to the races.
3. Don’t feel bad about making a clean getaway
Networking events are about moving around the room and trying to find a few people you really connect with. Don’t waste your time talking to someone who isn’t a good connection for you.
Here are some polite ways to gracefully make your escape:
- “It’s great to meet you. Can I have your card?”
- “It’s been wonderful talking with you. I’m going to go grab something to eat.”
- “I made myself a promise that I’d circulate around the room tonight. I’d better get a move on!”
- “It’s been a pleasure, but I’m sure you want to meet some other people. I won’t hold you up.”
4. Rethink the word “networking”
Before a networking event, how do you talk to yourself? Do you talk yourself up (“This will be fun”)? Or do you talk yourself down (“I hate networking”)? If your self-talk about networking is very negative, make an effort to try to be positive before heading into an event. Rethink the word “networking” as a chance to connect with other people—one person, even—that you have something in common with. That’s it!
5. Make it about quality, not quantity
Networking is about connecting with other human beings. It’s not about collecting as many business cards as you can. Instead of overthinking it (something we introverts often do!), just strive to make one real connection.
6. Ask people about their hobbies
I often bond with people over a shared love of toy robots, dogs, music, or cars. Tease people’s hobbies out of them: it’s a hell of a lot less boring than droning on about every single service you offer. And hey, you might even find someone who shares your passion for cassette tape portraits.
7. Use your listening skills to your benefit
Introverts are skilled listeners, and this is actually a big win in the networking world. If you can actively listen to people when they talk and interject with some points of your own, you’ve already impressed them. Be aware, however, that some people will take advantage of your excellent listening skills and talk your ear off. If this happens, refer to tip #3.
8. Be yourself
Being inauthentic or “wearing a mask” when you meet new people is draining. It’s harder than it sounds, but try to reframe networking as an opportunity to stop thinking about how you should act and just be yourself. The more you let your uniqueness shine through, the more memorable you’ll be, and the more fun you’ll have.
9. Don’t forget to follow up
A day or two after the event, send out personal emails to the people you connected with (also, try to find them on LinkedIn). A thoughtful note saying you enjoyed meeting them and hope to stay connected can go a long way toward forming a long-lasting professional relationship.