Do not make the mistake of thinking introverts are shy or self-centered individuals. Urban Dictionary defines an introvert as “a person who is energized by spending time alone. Often found in their homes, libraries, quiet parks that not many people know about, or other secluded places, introverts like to think and be alone. Contrary to popular belief, not all introverts are shy. Some may have great social lives and love talking to their friends but just need some time to be alone to “recharge” afterwards.”
As many of my friends will attest, I definitely lean strongly towards the extreme end of the extravert scale. So what do I know about introverts, or how they can be successful networkers? I married one. As much as an extravert that I am, he’s that much of an introvert. Socializing just isn’t in his nature.
So I can understand how travel professionals that identify themselves more along the introvert spectrum can struggle with networking, socializing, and mining for new clients all of the time. It can be overwhelming, frightening, and exhausting.
So here are some tips on successful networking for introverts that I have picked up over the years. And to be honest, the extraverts could learn a few things as well.
Don’t overdo it. It is possible to go to 2 to 3 networking events every day. But you can’t be effective if you spend all of your time networking, without doing any follow up. And if you’re always networking, when will you do your real work (planning travel)? And if you’re an introvert it is even worse, you will feel drained on top of everything else.
So be strategic and limit yourself to the number of events that you attend in any given week or month. Start with one or two events a month and as your comfort level grows, work your way up to a weekly event.
Attend consistently. You’ll make more of an impression, and build relationships more effectively, if you continue attending the same events repeatedly–once you find the ones that fit you best.
Be picky. Some networking events are more introvert-friendly. Focus on events with a structured agenda and a definite end-time. Even the most introverted person can put up with a defined period of time with other people, especially when they know there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Watch out for code words for “uncomfortable for introverts” such as “small talk” or “working the room.” Instead look for events where you have 30-60 seconds to give your elevator pitch but you are not required to spend a lot of time socializing. And finally, find an event with a reasonable number of attendees. It is much more comfortable to be with a few dozen people than to be with several hundred. That will come in time.
The buddy system. You don’t have to attend networking events by yourself. Go with a buddy–either another travel professional in your area or someone else you know in a different line of business. They don’t have to be an introvert themselves; but if they are, then you can both provide each other with support.
Follow up. When you are networking it is important to follow up which often takes the form of one-on-one appointments. Follow up usually is easier for introverts to handle than large (or even small) groups. Typically, a one-on-one meeting is one with a purpose—how two people can help each other out. Spread out your one-on-one appointments, giving yourself the time you need to re-energize in between.
Know yourself. You are the best judge of yourself and just how introverted you are or aren’t. Not sure? Then take a free online Myers-Briggs assessment to find out. Know your strengths, how much you can handle, and recognize when you need that “alone time” in order to re-energize. And don’t let the extraverts overwhelm you.
Susan Schaefer is the owner of Ships ‘N’ Trips Travel located in Nashville, Tennessee, and specializes in leisure travel with a focus on group travel and charity fundraisers. Through their division Kick Butt Vacations she focuses on travel for young adults under 35. Susan can be reached by email at email@example.com or by phone at (888) 221-1209).