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5 Networking Tips for Introverts

Creative Company Conference 2011 by Sebastiaan ter Berg via Flickr

I'm an introvert.

So in my role at Springboard, where I'm talking every day with entrepreneurs in our portfolio, new investors and advisors we're looking to engage, sponsors and prospective sponsors, I spend a lot of time operating outside my comfort zone.

It also means that I need to find creative ways to fuel the extrovert mindset I need in order to over-deliver.

If your position requires you to push your extroversion to the limit, here are a few tricks I use. I hope they help you jumpstart some new relationships.

1. Frame everything as an opportunity to learn

The excitement of learning is what motivates me. It's why I work with startups. It's what gets me up in the morning. I am aware of the power that my desire to learn has, and wield it when I need to re-frame a situation.

2. Intentionally put yourself in situations that make you uncomfortable

When I attended a meeting of accelerators and investors at the NVCA conference last year, Brad Feld called for anyone running an accelerator to come forward for an impromptu panel. As I looked around the room, I had seconds to decide whether I would put myself forward and get exposure for Springboard or sit back into the more comfortable observer role. I chose to make myself uncomfortable, a move that got me quoted in The Wall Street Journal later that week. Raise your hand.

3. Balance external and internal activities

Working in the startup world is a 24/7 commitment, and at some point every introvert needs time to re-fuel the energy to maintain the social connectivity today's market demands of us. I sometimes go for a short 5-minute walk after long conference calls or even just sit outside or go into another room to get a change of scenery. Other times if I know I need to spend a lot of time on the phone, I'll break it up into blocks divided by emails or even offline tasks. Balance the social and non-social, creative and analytical, proactive and reactive.

4. Experiment with new tactics

When we run our annual Springboard dinner each October, we surround it with other events that typically results in 12+ hours/day engaging in conversation. When I know my introversion will be tested for a sustained period of time, I research and then try out new techniques. By making myself a guinea pig in an experiment, it gives me a hyper awareness of when my fuel tank is low and makes challenges I face more interesting. Live your life in beta.

5. Overprepare

Look up the list of speakers and check your mutual LinkedIn connections. Ask event organizers for the attendee list. Reach out to your contacts to see if anyone you know or anyone they know is going. The more information you have about who will be at an event, the more pre-networking you can do. Ping people you want to meet on LinkedIn, @mention them in a tweet, or (if you have it or can find it) shoot them an email. You'll feel more comfortable about jumping into a conversation to say hello to them, or making plans to meet up after you both arrive.