Networking Tips for Introverts and Shy People

Networking has been cited as the number one unwritten rule of success in business. Who you know really impacts what you know.
— Sallie Krawcheck

Networking is important. We all get that. But what do you do if you’re shy, introverted and/or struggle in social settings?

One workaround is social media. Many folks much prefer engaging from behind a picture or avatar than in person. While the quality of the engagement can often be more limited, there’s a ton that one can achieve by showing up authentically online, sharing great content and demonstrating real interest in others.

Another approach is to use FaceTime, Duo, Skype, Zoom or some other online audio/video chat platforms. It can be less intimidating for folks to talk through their technology and preserve their personal space than to actually get in the same room as them. It can also make connecting much easier from a logistical standpoint.

Still, there is no question that in-person engagement is in many ways superior. For one, much of how we engage involves non-verbals, like posture, positioning and touch. These can’t be utilized nearly as well, if at all, through technological pathways. In addition, you can share things in person, such as materials, business cards, and, of course, real-life experiences, such as a cup of coffee in a populated room, that don’t travel well via cyberspace.

For all of the extroverts and even ambiverts out there, in-person networking is usually a snap. Meet. Greet. Chat. Repeat.

The introverts out there (including me) or those that are more socially reclusive, however, often have a harder go at it.

Here are some tips to help introverts (and others too) become more socially comfortable and achieve their networking goals:

  1. Get extra rest beforehand – Introverts don’t get their energy from socializing. If anything, it drains them. Come in well rested with energy reserves on tap to tackle the task ahead of you.
  2. Make preliminary connections – Use email and social media to start the conversation in advance and let folks know that you’ll be there. This helps keep things more normal.
  3. Think in advance about items to discuss – Have some talking points handy but avoid sounding contrived or forced. Be willing to go a bit deeper to elicit meaningful responses, such as by asking what others hope to get out of the evening or who they really want to meet.
  4. Be present and listen well – This is usually easy for introverts and also intuitive. Introverts struggle with lots of noise and business. By going deep with one person or a small group, you can feel more comfortable while developing strong connections. Don't walk around with your head on a swivel. Listen and mirror back. Just be sure not to spend the entire evening talking with one person. 
  5. De-stimulate – Find a quiet place to chat. This keeps temperatures low and allows for better connecting. Direct them over with something like this: “Man, these networking events can be so crazy. Mind if I join you over here where it’s a little quieter?”
  6. Ask for help – Ask the person you’re talking to who else they can introduce you to.
  7. Appreciate the value your deliver – Networking is an exchange of value—whether it is time, information, or your talents. You need to be able to recognize what you have to give, as well as what you want to get. This will keep you positive and upbeat throughout the event.