I am an introvert with social anxiety and this is problematic when it comes to networking which is all about being social!
However, I came up with a strategy that lets me network effectively and still care for that introverted side of me that is scared of public events. It sounds contradictory but I learned a trick to temporarily move out of my introverted self and present myself as sociable and outgoing. I created a different persona I like to call “Business Barbie Brí”.
Laugh if you will but this version of me is the ideal business woman I want to be: confident, friendly, and able to speak to everyone and anyone.
I imagined what kind of person would be good at networking and how they would act and present themselves. I looked at my posture, my makeup, my dress, I still wanted to represent myself and my business, but I needed an alternative version of myself to do it. I’m tweaking my personality for a small while so I can network my socks off. I practised using this persona and over time it has become easier to slip in and out of.
Usually in the run up to networking events I start to get anxious, my anxiety creeps in and starts kicking me in the stomach and whispering in my ear “Don’t go, you don’t have to, sure it’s only one event, there will be others.” I give in and I rally against the whisper a million times right up to when I open the door and leave the house. But I have a few tricks that I use to coax myself into going. First, I tell myself that I’m not going, that Business Barbie Brí is going, she is going to do all the work and when she comes home I will look after her. In a strangely psychotic way this works to calm my mind as this other version of me is so much more capable. Also, I know that I only have to be this version of myself for 2 to 3 hours at most and afterwards I can crawl back inside my introverted hobbit hole, take off the uncomfortable clothes, put on the fluffy socks, pyjamas and purple beanie and relax. Another trick I use is to see it as part of my working day. If the event is going to take two hours, I make sure to give myself two hours off in the week to do something else, to balance the scales if you will. You need to treat yourself for doing something that took a lot of effort. Finally, I remind myself that networking and marketing are so very important to my business. I made my business plans this year and in order to make them work I need to get out there and get my face seen. No one ran a successful business hiding away at home all the time (but if they managed it, tell me about it yeah!?)
P.S. Oh yeah, and business cards help too. I bring them everywhere I go, not just structured networking events. You can talk about the cards and how you got them designed and they are something for fidgeting hands to hold.