I am an introvert. If I spend a couple of hours with a crowd, I want to go to the closet at the back of my room, close the door behind me, push through the clothing to as far back as I can go, and sit there alone, in the dark and the quiet for a long time. Being there is like drinking cool water on a summer day.
You extroverts probably think I am joking. How little you understand the introvert!
Introversion creates challenges for the aspiring rainmaker, but don’t be dismayed. Our research shows that many rainmakers are introverts and are as good at working a room an extrovert.
Networking, with its intense social contact, takes a toll on the introvert. It’s not that we don’t like other people—we do! It’s just that being with too many of them drains us. If only we could watch the rest of you talking and mixing and having fun from a quiet place in the shadows, that would be plenty for us! But we can’t. There’s work to be done amongst the crowd.
Here are a few suggestions for making participation in large gatherings easier:
- Prepare a few conversation starters: On the way to an event think of three questions to ask people to start conversations. They can be about the event or facility (Did you have the trouble I did finding this place? Can you tell me a little about this organization?) or news of the day (Did you see the debate last night? Did you hear how the game came out?).
- Make the plunge: Scan the room for a friendly face or for someone who looks as uncomfortable as you feel, and go talk to them. Or get in the line for food or drink and start a conversation with the person standing there with you.
- Ask more questions: Remember that you don’t have to say much nor reveal much about yourself. Other people will generally be happy to do the talking. Ask a few questions to find something that interests them and then turn them loose. Most will keep going with a little reinforcement.
- Play host: Acting like a host will give you something to do, a reason for being there that demands immediate attention. Do what hosts do: Introduce people to each other. Spend some time those who seem to be left out, and bring people drinks.
- Take a break: If the event runs for a long time, take a ten minute break to walk around the block or go some other place with fewer people and less need to socialize.
- Leave early: When the meal at a breakfast or dinner event ends, everyone leaves in a rush. So, when you sit down at the table to eat, the people to your left and right are the last you will talk to at the event. If they are not contacts that you want to develop or if you know them well already, your work is done. Eat the salad and excuse yourself, saying that you have another commitment. If it’s a multi-day event, there is little benefit to staying up late. Visit a couple of hospitality suites, but when the drink starts flowing too heavily, go back to your room.
Your closet is waiting for you.