Being extroverted is valuable in our always-on business world. The push toward collaboration, connection, and getting in front of audiences on social media all require you to speak up and be seen—two things extroverts are great at.
When it comes to networking, however, this can be a hindrance. It can be easy to get caught up in the rush of making your way around the room and talking to everyone you can. The thing is, if you’re jumping from one conversation to the next, you may not be connecting as well as you think you are. A network that’s “a mile wide and an inch deep” isn’t as valuable as one that’s an inch wide and a mile deep.
The goal is to build relationships with people who will support your business and respond when you reach out for help, but if you neglect to connect with them when you first meet, you’ll struggle.
I spent six months networking when I first started my business. I knew I needed to get out of the house and talk with people who have been there before. People who could teach and guide me while providing support as I navigated this new role of entrepreneur. Doing this taught me the value of slowing down, having real conversations, and making an effort to connect afterward.
If you’re an extrovert struggling to make the most of networking, here are some tips to guide you.
Focus on where you need support
When you have a central focus or goal for attending a networking event, it’s a good way to make sure that, instead of talking to everyone, you’re talking to the people who may be most likely to provide support in the areas you need it.
As Ted Rollins, a long-time entrepreneur and executive chairman and founding partner at Valeo Groupe, says, “Networking will be most profitable for you when you master this targeted approach.”
But that doesn’t mean you go in looking to connect with a single person—talking to people from diverse backgrounds is critical. Rollins advises, “Focus on meeting with and building a diverse group of individuals. Each one can help you with specific business goals in different ways, providing value now and as you grow.”
To make this approach work for you, get intentional ahead of the networking event and go in knowing who you want to talk to—who can help you now and in the future, and in what ways. I went into one event looking to share the speaking I want to do. I left with a connection who helped me fine-tune the topic for my first talk and invited me to a networking group where I could practice before the big event.
Making this simple mindset shift means that you’re not just meeting everyone in the room, but you’re actually connecting with people who matter to your business.
Create conversation guidelines
It’s so easy to pop in and out of conversations when you’re extroverted. You’re excited to meet everyone and anyone, but if you don’t take your time, you’ll walk away having met everyone without actually getting to know anyone.
To keep yourself in a conversation long enough to make valuable connections, set guidelines for yourself. For example, you can’t walk away from a conversation until you know:
- The person’s line of work.
- What they currently need help with.
- What brought them to this particular event.
This ensures that your conversations are both productive and thorough. Plus, letting the other person share their story and talk about themselves is a surefire way to make great connections and provide value right away.
Rollins explains, “When first meeting someone you think could be helpful, offer your services first. Ask: What do you need help with right now? What do you see yourself needing the most support with in the future?” He says, “Being authentic with connections and always trying to provide greater value makes them more likely to do the same for you. This sets the foundation for a strong network that is instrumental for everyone involved.”
Follow up with a plan
Any networking pro will tell you follow-ups are important. As an extroverted networker, however, you may have dozens of follow-ups to send after each event. Instead of shooting off a few generic emails, have a plan for that contact and get specific.
For example, write notes about each person when you get home from the event:
- How can you support them?
- How can they help you?
- Does it make sense to meet for coffee?
- Can you send any resources based on your initial conversation?
- Can you send an intro to someone you know?
Not only does a follow-up protocol such as this slow you down at the event—how many people can you really follow up with?—but it forces you to slow down and focus on developing a deeper connection further down the line.
“As these relationships grow, consider how they fit into that burgeoning ‘why,'” says Rollins. “Someone may be more valuable in expanding your business while another person would serve you best in a mentor role.”
I always provide something of substance in my first follow-up, whether that be a coffee meeting or an offer to introduce the person to someone I know. You give to them, they give to you—the value is mutually beneficial.
Networking has led me to develop a large group of entrepreneurial contacts in San Diego, which I rely on for marketing, product launches, and so much more—but I had to slow down, engage in conversations, and put thought into how we could best serve one another.
Instead of working the room, focus on the person in front of you and watch your network grow.
Jessica Thiefels is the founder and CEO of Jessica Thiefels Consulting, an organic content marketing agency for midsized B2B businesses outsourcing content marketing. She’s been writing for more than 10 years and has been featured in top publications including Forbes, Entrepreneur, and Fast Company. She also regularly contributes to Glassdoor, Score.org, and more. Follow her on Twitter and connect on LinkedIn.