How Can Introverts Excel at Tech Networking Events?
Updated: Aug 23
I never thought I could learn to "network" but then I realized it’s a skill like any other.
“How can an introvert like me excel at tech networking events, where socializing and making connections seem like an extrovert's playground?”
Growing up, I was so shy that I rarely spoke to anyone unless necessary. During my first tech conference at college, I found myself nervously fidgeting with my badge half of the time.
I watched in awe as others effortlessly engaged in conversations, their laughter resonating through the hall.
I desperately wished I could do the same, but my introverted nature held me back like an invisible barrier.
As time passed, I realized my troubles with networking were hindering my professional growth.
I would attend events and hear inspiring speakers but leave without making any meaningful connections I could develop further.
It became apparent that I had to do something about this and find a way to leverage it to my advantage. I started experimenting with small steps.
In short, this article will explore how introverts can leverage their unique strengths to thrive at tech networking events, based on real-life experiences and examples.
I will share easy tips and techniques that helped me transition from feeling shy and withdrawn to becoming a confident networker.
If you're an introvert who wants to overcome challenges in socializing at tech events, these strategies are for you.
Preparing for the event
Before heading to a tech networking event or any event, I found that thorough research played a crucial role in boosting my confidence.
Understanding the event's agenda and schedule allowed me to plan my time effectively, ensuring I was aware of valuable sessions and opportunities.
Another valuable aspect of the research was getting to know the attendees in advance, whenever possible. Many tech events share the list of speakers and participants beforehand.
For example, at GITEX Global, top tech event in the UAE, given the impressive number of startups that participate.
With this high level of excitement comes a significant challenge for introverts.
To ease the stress associated with this situation, consider leveraging the information you gathered about the attendees to select a few individuals with whom you feel engaging with is valuable.
You can establish initial contact through email or LinkedIn profiles before the event.
This approach will help reduce your anxiety and create a solid foundation for more significant interactions throughout the event.
As a part of the preparation, you can download Zealous to get an idea of who is around you to avoid the potential awkwardness that comes with encountering unknown people.
Joining a group conversation without being weird
According to a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, one practical approach is to find a commonality with the group's topic before participating.
By listening closely to ongoing discussions and identifying shared interests or experiences, you can ease into a conversation with relevant insights or questions.
For those who may feel hesitant or overwhelmed to approach or join a group directly, here’s a tip!
Stand close to a group member and make eye contact with them.
Then, with a smile, kindly introduce yourself to that particular individual.
Once you have provided a brief introduction to what you do and how you can add value to the group, express your interest to be introduced to any one they may know who would be interesting to meet or to the broader group when appropriate.
Here are some examples you could use:
Example 1: Hey there, my name is [your name]. I work as a [your role] at XYZ Corp. I'm really interested in what you guys are saying about [topic 1] and [topic 2]. Mind if I join in?
Example 2: I couldn't help but overhear your conversation on [topic]. As a fellow [your role], I'd love to hear your take on [question about a topic they're discussing].
Once you're in, let others know that you're actively listening. It's not about how much you talk but how well you listen that determines your involvement in the conversation.
Ideally, each person speaks about 50% of the time in one-on-one chats. However, in group discussions of 3, each person's speaking time reduces to about 33%. With 10 people, speaking time decreases to only 10%, and so on.
So, as the group size increases, your listening time should also increase.
Mastering the art of small talk
Studies show that small talk is responsible for nearly one-third of our speech.
Small talk is great for connecting with others and seeing if you can form a deeper connection.
When most of us think about getting better at small talk, we approach it incorrectly. We think:
"What do I say?"
But the real key is focusing on and mastering these 3 things:
Body Language: People are attracted to and want to associate with people who radiate great body language. Try smiling, standing up straight, and looking people in the eye when they talk to give off the best body language possible relatively quickly.
Tonality: If you speak in a way that will make people sleepy, it doesn't matter if you're talking about the most exciting thing in the world. People will naturally tune you out. For example, if you speak in a monotone and unenergetic way…chances are the person's brain (that you're talking to) will naturally start to tune you out.
Energy: In conversations, the energy you project acts like fuel to a fire. Add more energy, and the conversation ignites; it roars with excitement. On the other hand, take away energy, and the conversation dies out completely. So you want to try your best to be uplifting and excited whenever you interact with someone new.
Stop networking and start genuinely connecting
The best networker is a connector who adds value to connections by referring them to others.
Taking this selfless, giving without expectations approach will help you in the long run and could even lead to business leads or valuable contacts in the future.
In The Connectors, Maribeth Kuzmeski unravels the complexities of social networking and reveals the key to developing strong client relationships.
If you're struggling to navigate the chaos of online connections, "The Connectors" is your ultimate guide.
ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS follow up!
The first follow-up is simply showing the person that you enjoyed your interaction with them and expressing continued interest in whatever you discussed.
Be sure to customize your message to jog their memory of you and let them know you were mentally present during the conversation.
The importance of small talk and genuine connections cannot be overstated in tech networking.
Even introverts can take small steps to become more confident in networking.
Preparation is key, as are making eye contact, introducing oneself, understanding the topic, and developing a wider network by connecting people.
Overall, embracing the challenge of tech networking events is an excellent opportunity to build relationships that otherwise would not exist.
Networking may require extra effort for introverts, but taking advantage of all it offers will pay off.