So I recently returned home from a networking event in New York City, my first in a while actually. Leading up to it, I thought, hey what a great opportunity to brush up on my networking skills and put some of Stephen’s recommendations (from his May 24 post) into action. Even though I was there as a staff member to support students and alums in their networking pursuits, I was still faced with the challenge of interacting in a way that didn’t completely drain my energy.
Stephen talks about using the “buddy system” as an effective networking strategy for introverts. This was the main strategy I used that night, and it worked well for me. I made plans to have dinner with my co-worker, Courtney just prior to the event, in part to guarantee arriving with someone else to the event. One of my biggest fears around networking is showing up alone and entering a big, noisy, crowded room. How do I break into a conversation? When we arrive with a friend or colleague, we can ease into the event by talking with that person at first, but then breaking off into conversations with others, which is exactly what happened. And the nice thing is, we know we can retreat back to our initial partner, especially if things aren’t going well. Things in fact seemed to be going well, and about half way into the evening, as luck would have it, another co-worker approached me during that transition between one conversation to the next. We talked amongst ourselves for a bit, but then we “worked the room” together for awhile, which helped to keep my anxiety to a minimum and conserve my energy at the same time. In retrospect, if she hadn’t approached me, I think a good strategy would have been to proactively seek her, or another friendly face out as a potential networking “partner”, as Stephen suggests in his blog post.
Overall, the evening went well. Towards the end, though, I could tell my energy level was starting to dip, so I was glad it ended when it did. If it were not for the buddy system that night, I feel that the outcome would not have been as successful as it was!