NETWORKING is part of business. Anyone who seeks to progress in his career must network effectively to gain potential leads and make the right business connections.
For outgoing people, this process can be a breeze. However, it can be an intimidating task for those who are not outspoken or gregarious by nature.
Being an introvert myself, I have developed a strategy in order to network more successfully at events.
While the following tips do not have the power to transform an introvert into an extrovert, they can help you to network more effectively. This may lead to new business connections that could prove handy in your career.
PLANT THE SEEDS
MANY event organisers share the list of attendees and speakers on the event website.
You can use this to map out your wishlist of people whom you wish to meet and reach out to them prior to the event.
This could be as simple as introducing yourself to them via LinkedIn or e-mail and expressing an interest to meet at the event.
By seeding connections with a group of like-minded people, you know there will be people at the event ready to talk to you.
These people may then help to introduce other valuable contacts to you.
Never be pushy or try to hard-sell your company or product. Conversations at networking events are just the start of a relationship.
You can always follow up by arranging a separate meeting after the event to discuss potential business dealings.
If meeting many strangers is difficult for you, aim to make just a few quality connections.
BE A PROACTIVE LISTENER
Introverts are happy to let others do the talking. However, "active" listening requires some effort. Conduct background research on the professional profiles of those on your wishlist.
This will allow you to find some common ground or interesting discussion topics to initiate a meaningful conversation.
If there is a pause in the conversation, do not feel compelled to fill the silence unless you have something relevant to say.
During conferences, if there are any topics that spark your interest, jot down useful soundbites, quotes or questions that you can bring up during the networking session.
BE VISIBLE AT THE EVENT
Introverts typically shy away from stepping into the spotlight. However, networking is easier if you are visible at the event. Ask questions or share a relevant story during the discussion time.
This often encourages others to initiate a conversation on the same topic, for example, during tea breaks.
Read the conference topics ahead of time so you can prepare your list of questions or discussion points.
Attend as many of the networking sessions as possible, including the breakfasts, tea breaks and cocktail sessions.
If you have free time during the event, resist the urge to sit in a corner and catch up on e-mail messages. Instead, mingle and proactively look for people on your wishlist.
If you are attending the event with co-workers, avoid spending all your time with them. It is easier for you to approach others - and for others to approach you - if you are by yourself.
CRAFT A SOCIAL MEDIA PRESENCE
If being physically visible at an event is daunting, you may be more comfortable being present on social media platforms instead.
Choose interesting moments, quotes, topics and photos that you want to share on platforms like Twitter or LinkedIn.
Avoid simply rehashing what is going on at the event.
Try contributing your views on the situation.
Remember to use official conference hashtags, as this increases the likelihood that your post will be seen by other event attendees, who are more likely to engage in the same conversation.
Mr Tay is the vice-president of sales and general manager of messaging at Zendesk, a cloud-based customer service platform that brings organisations and their customers closer together.
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