7 Quick Networking Tips for Introverts
If you’re an introvert like me, NASPA can be daunting at times. It’s definitely not any easier when it seems like *everyone* is an extrovert and can pick up and hold a conversation in ways that we introverts dream about. But fear not, fellow I’s! We, too, can go out there and meet people, make connections, and truly experience all that a wonderful conference like NASPA’s has to offer! Here’s a few quick “go-to” tips to make networking a little bit easier…
Smiling not only makes you more approachable, but it’s also a psychological tool to make yourself feel better. You’ll feel more confident and everyone will be able to see it!
Chances are that, at some point, nerves or anxiety will kick in, especially in places that can feel overwhelming in terms of noise and activity. If you feel your heart rate kick up, take a deep breath to collect yourself. Retreat to a quiet area for a few minutes if you need to. Being in highly active spaces can definitely be stressful so be sure to take time for yourself, even if only for 5 minutes at a time, to re-energize.
There’s some great nooks to check out, too! One of my favorite places to take those 5-minute decompression breaks is the top floor of the Marriott. The poster sessions, which are right next to some wonderful plush couches, is a great way to be in a quiet space and pick up some great conversation starters!
3.) Ask Questions
Small talk can often feel uncomfortable and awkward. Asking questions is a great way to engage people in conversation, get to know them, and avoid talking a lot! Some great go-to conversation starters would be to ask about their institution, position, where they are from, sessions that they have been to or are planning on going to, and the great featured speakers!
4.) Make Eye Contact
I definitely have a hard time with this one. It can be a challenge to maintain eye contact- often, an instinct is to avert your eyes when feeling uncomfortable. Make sure to keep reminding yourself to maintain focus on the person/group you are interacting with. While this is definitely different between cultures, the common cultural context here is the United States, and not making eye contact can be interpreted as rudeness.
5.) Hold Something in Your Hand
If you notice you fidget a lot, try holding a cup of water, your conference booklet, or a pad of paper in your hand. This will keep your hands occupied and allow you to stay focused on the conversation. I would recommend avoiding holding an electronic gadget, such as a phone, as it might provide temptation to check for messages or signal impatience/distractedness to whomever you are engaging with.
6.) Be Open About Your Introvertedness*
Although it can feel like it, you are NOT the only introvert at NASPA! If you are feeling uncomfortable, ask a colleague if they can introduce you to some people or tag along to a couple of sessions. This will help you to “warm up” and develop confidence to branch out on your own.
*Special thanks to Iesha Valencia for this great tip!
7.) Utilize Online Networking
I love online networking! Online sources are a great way to get your name/face “out there” in new and innovative ways outside the traditional reception/lobby settings. One of the best pieces of advice that I’ve been given is to make sure to email/follow up with the people you meet and talk to at the conference. E-mail is a quick and effective way to open new lines of communication and, with all of our busy lives, is definitely convenient for all parties involved!
Other great ways to utilize online networking:
-Consider writing a comment or posting to this very blog!
-Join an Knowledge Community. There’s dozens of active listservs and newsletters to contribute to.
So, here you are, my fellow introverts! Here’s to a wonderful NASPA conference that we can all actively engage with without stressing ourselves out. I hope to meet you and I’d love to hear YOUR tricks and tools for networking in the comments section!