Networking is often seen as small talk and chit chat, not exactly the favourite activity for somebody with introverted tendencies. One of the “standard” pieces of advice given to people is to arrive early at networking meetings. Does this really make networking easier for introverts?
A standard piece of advice is to arrive early. Firstly, this message gets given to everybody, introvert or not, which is a little suspicious in itself! If you don’t like being in groups of people, why on earth should you make yourself do it for longer than you need to?
Benefits of arriving early at a networking event.
- Calm the nerves: Depending on the type of event, who else is likely to be there and your familiarity with the venue, being there early may allow you to be calm before others arrive. There are other ways of being calm before arriving, that may add less stress to your networking (a simple meditation routine or two minutes of quiet focusing on your meeting objectives). So don’t arrive early just because you’re told it’s better, but decide.
- Meet one person: If the person you most need to talk to will also be there early and it will be easier to talk to them in the quieter part of the meeting (before everybody else arrives) getting there early could make sense. Of course, by the time you’ve arranged to meet them early you could have just arranged to meet on a different day, one to one in the way you’d prefer.
- Scope out the venue: Being there early could allow you to choose a good place to stand and where you can go to be quietly alone during the meeting. There may even be a place you can stand where you can get into conversations and out of conversations easily (near the food can work) which also allows you to easily disappear from time to time during the meeting. So, if you need to bag the right spot going early could work. If you know the venue already maybe not.
- Less intimidating: Walking into a room full of conversations can be intimidating. The wall of noise can hit you as you turn around a corner and that certainly doesn’t have a good impact on the nervous system. However maybe you find that standing around early, not sure of who people are and being immediately seen by everybody. What makes sense for you?
- Get a role: One of the best things an introvert can do in any large gathering is to have a role in the meeting. It makes it easier to get into, and out of, conversations; it also seems to make it easier for introverts generally. If arriving early allows you to offer some help to the organiser, then it could be worthwhile. Of course, you could ask the organiser before even arriving.
Problems with arriving early to a networking meeting
- You’re one of the few: Often there’s only one or two others there early, so it’s hard to get out of the inevitable conversations you’ll have with them. This can sap your energy before the event even starts.
- You’re there for longer: So you’re going to go to an event for longer than you need to, by arriving before most of the people you hope to meet? Unless you’re going to use this extra time by getting in extra networking, it doesn’t make sense.
- You can’t get away any earlier: Logically you could leave earlier as you arrived earlier. But for those who weren’t there early, they’ll just see you going early. You could end up feeling trapped.
How to network as an introvert – arrive early?
I don’t know which is the best advice for you, at the meeting you’re thinking of attending. What I do know is that “following the rules” and doing things without some detailed thought isn’t playing to an introverts strength.
As an introvert you can probably be one of the better networkers, but not by acting in ways that don’t make sense to you.
- Virtual networking for introverts
- Networking meetings - Post Covid
- Should you arrive early to networking events?
Charlie Lawson, author of "The Unnatural Networker" and Director of BNI-UK knows a thing or two about networking. Here's what he said about how introverts can improve their networking.