How to Crush a Networking Event (When You Hate Networking)

October 26, 2017

Here are tips for introverts who hate networking on how to be a great networker.

Here’s a partial list of things I’d rather do than go to a networking event: get my finger caught in a car door, take a nap in poison ivy or put my hand on a hot stove.

I hate networking. Like, hate it. It makes me feel uncomfortable and awkward and small and various other emotions us humans don’t particularly appreciate. 

And I have a feeling I’m not alone.

Yet, all that said, networking is important. You can form or strengthen key relationships through networking, increase your sales, land a new job or even just make a new friend, so simply avoiding it altogether puts you at a disadvantage.

It’s okay, us fellow networking haters have a savior in the form of Kelley School of Business Professor Brenda Bailey-Hughes, an introvert herself who also doesn’t particularly love networking. In a new LinkedIn Learning course she co-taught with extrovert Tatiana Kolovou, Finding Your Introvert/Extrovert Balance in the Workplace, she gave four hacks for introverts who hate networking to overcome that and network like a champion.

So, hate networking? Next time you go to a networking event, try these four hacks:

1. Go to each networking event with a clear goal.

Here’s the key: when you go to a networking event, have a clear picture of what you want to accomplish. Do you want to befriend tech workers to pick their ear about the latest technologies they are working on? Looking for marketers to recruit? Want to speak with business leaders you’d like to sell your solution to?

Even go beyond that: give yourself a number. As in, I want to talk with four marketers and gauge their interest in working for us. Or, I want to connect with three CTOs to gauge their response on our new tech product.

The best news? Once you hit your goal, you can leave the networking event, with no regrets.  

2. Get to the event early.

The larger the crowd, the more overwhelming it can be to introverts (and other people who don’t like networking). There’s a solution: go early, when the crowd is smaller.

Often, it’s actually easier to talk to a few people in a room, as opposed to a massive crowd. By the time the crowd fills out, you’ll be comfortable and have already made a few new contacts.

3. Get in line.

Similar to the last point, a long line – say for food or a drink – is one of the easiest spots to network. Because rather than having to go up to people on your own, you are already standing among strangers and it’s relatively easy to start a conversation. Obvious icebreakers include “what do you think of the event” or “what kind of work do you do?”.

4. Attend with an extrovert, if you can.

Extroverts generally flourish in networking events. They enjoy meeting new people and starting conversations gives them energy (whereas those activities drain the energy of an introvert).

Hence, if you can, go to a networking event with an extrovert. You can lean on them to strike up new conversations, where then you can add in your own thoughts. 

The takeaway

Just because you don’t like networking doesn’t mean you have to be bad at it. Networking is like any other skill: if you spend some time learning how to do it, you will sharpen that skill.

These tips should help. They should remove most of the dread many of us face when we have to go to a networking event, and instead make them far more productive.

Looking for more tips for advancing your career? Check out our weekly series, Personal Effectiveness Tips.