The reality is, not all entrepreneurs are social butterflies, and networking can be nerve racking, especially when you’re trying to establish yourself and your startup in a bustling city like Dubai. But, let’s face it, networking is important. But what can you do if you’re the type of person who is not too keen on the whole “talk-to-as-many-people-as-you-can” networking trope? What should be the modus operandi for the introverts among us?
To answer this question, we first need to understand what being an introvert really means. “Introvert does not mean shy,” says Bina Mathews, a Master NLP (Neuro-linguistic programming) coach who’s the founder of Bina Mathews Consulting. “Shyness is a social anxiety, while being introverted just means you prefer solitude and quiet instead of being in the thick of things. [Being introverted] does not mean being oblivious to or disengaged from everything around you. On the contrary, since they have more time to absorb what’s happening around them, process it and reflect on it quietly, introverts tend to have more in-depth knowledge and understanding of their subject areas.”
Keeping this in mind, Mathews shares the following five tips on how introverted entrepreneurs can navigate the networking arena, and successfully build useful connections to grow both themselves and their businesses:
1. Adopt a new perspective “We all perceive reality through our own individual mental and emotional filters,” Mathews says. “The great thing is that it means we can change our reality just by changing our filter.” Mathews suggests that viewing networking through a positive lens, where you concentrate on the outcome of the affair, rather than the experience itself will help introverts view it in a more favorable light.
2. Determine what you wish to gain from your interactions Engaging in goal-driven conversations will help you foster meaningful dialogue and yield results. “Clearly define the outcome you want from the experience,” Mathews explains. “Keeping your goal in mind will help keep you stay anchored and allow you to guide the conversation, instead of feeling lost and swept away helplessly.”
3. Present another aspect of yourself “Put on your persona- and no, this does not mean [you have to] be fake,” Mathews says. “Remember, you are doing this for your business. So, step aside, and put on your company’s persona. Much like Harry Potter’s Invisibility Cloak, it will make you disappear, and allow your company to be in the driver’s seat. This will immediately remove all the pressure you put on yourself as the person.”
4. Take it one step at a time Identify your comfort zone, and, initially, set a limit for your interactions. Start with a few people for a certain amount of time, and gradually increase that number, as you feel more comfortable. “For example: ‘I will talk to only two people for 15 minutes each, and leave,’” Mathews says. “Once you have done that and [if you] still feel comfortable, you can increase it to just two more people, maybe 20 minutes each. This keeps you in control, and breaks down what was a huge and daunting proposition into something small and easily manageable.”
5. Be inspired by an extrovert Find an extrovert who you look up to, and notice the way they deliver themselves, “then consciously –at least initially– model their behavior. Step into their shoes and become them. In time, you will make it your own unique style,” Mathews says. At the end of the event, practicing self-appreciation and engaging in reflection to identify the favorable outcomes you’ve gained throughout the experience will aid in eliminating the negative outlook you might have towards networking. Acknowledge your achievement, appreciate your efforts, and “recall this positive feeling of success before your next networking event,” Mathews urges. “Repeat it after the event. In time, it will become a natural state of mind, going a long way towards dispelling the anxiety that used to precede such encounters.
At the end of the day, networking is about making deep, meaningful connections with people who can help you take you and your startup a step further. So, don’t worry too much if you didn’t collect a hundred business cards after a networking event, or if you didn’t get to speak to every person in the venue: value quality over quantity, and let yourself, your business, and your connections grow together.
This article was originally published on Dubai Startup Hub and has been reposted on Entrepreneur Middle East based on a mutual agreement between the websites.