Introverts face a number of challenges at meetings and networking events, but there are some strategies that can help.
We spoke with Sandja Brügmann, founder and CEO of The Passion Institute, which helps to develop leaders fit to succeed in the 21st century and organizational cultures where people thrive, innovate and care. In this first part of a two-part Q&A, she shares both the challenges introverts face and the strategies that make networking events a bit easier for them.
What do you find to be the biggest challenges for introverts at networking events?
The first challenge that an introvert faces is a feeling of dread to even get out the door and attend an event with a lot of people, especially a lot of people that they don’t know.
Being in situations where they need to small-talk or get to know someone new can be overwhelming, especially at bigger conferences. More intimate, smaller events or smaller groups, make it easier for introverts to participate and feel more comfortable.
From the individual perspective, the most important thing for an introvert to do is to work from your intellectual center. It’s often our emotional center that creates this sense of dread to get out the door, so try and set an intellectual goal with attending the event—i.e., why do you want to attend the event and what do you want to get out of the event? Since I am an introvert myself, say I’m at a Sustainable Brands Event in Copenhagen with several-thousand participants and there’s an international community that’s attending, I know it’s important for me to show up and continue nurturing those relationships for my company’s brand.
From the individual perspective, the most important thing for an introvert to do is to work from your intellectual center.
And then connect with your body, and do some type of meditation practice before you enter a big event. Often introverts experience some type of anxiety, so breathing practices help bring attention to yourself that centers you.
Then, set an easy goal such as telling yourself you’d like to meet three people. You can look at the attendee list, and identify the three most interesting people that you would like to meet, and be specific and go after them. When you go up to them, you already know why you want to meet them, but also think about what value you can bring to them. Set boundaries around your time and show up with a mindset of “what can I give.” That way you can make a mental note what you want to talk to them about.
Not only is having a specific three people in mind doable, it also makes it easier if people come up to you, which can also be overwhelming for introverts. You already have a reason for why you may want to cut that conversation short and can even tell them that you’re there to meet a specific person. Have your scripts ready and really focus on what you want to create for yourself at the event. That also helps practice the skill to say no; the more you can practice it, the more empowered you can feel, and the better chances you have at sticking to what’s important for you.