In this article, I’m going to share with you some top tips I’ve learnt as an introverted accountant on how to network better when you go to a networking event. Others may find me to be an extrovert, however this has not always been the case. For the past 18 months, I’ve attended and surrounded myself and learnt from others how to network, and here I will share with you what I’ve learnt so far.
The first tip is to be interested rather than trying to be interesting. Rather than trying to be very interesting and have everyone notice you, be interested and curious about other people at the event.
Ask questions and learn what’s important to other people, but just be low key about it, you don’t need to be over the top you don’t need to stand out.
This ability to focus on other people is probably why introverts often make better networkers. The old trick of being the class clown, like it was back in high school, won’t work in a professional setting.
What you want to think about is whether meeting each person will develop into a very long-term relationship and taking it slowly at first. First impressions are important, but you’ll have more than a few bites at the cherry before you’ll get to know people enough to do business together, so don’t try to do everything during your first meeting.
Once you’ve been to a few events, you’ll find out that the small business community isn’t as big or as scary as you first originally thought, so take it easy and you’ll do fine.
When I’m meeting someone, I find things that we have in common because that will make the atmosphere comfortable, and you don’t have to worry about the conversation dying between both people.
For example, where did they go to school? Where do they live? What things are they interested in? What type of careers have they had? What are their passions or sports? What sort of family situation have they grown up with?
So, there are all sorts of ways to find common ground fairly quickly. Soon you’ll find many people you have plenty of things in common with.
I’ve found it is better is to get an introduction from someone at an event than for you to have to go up and introduce yourself cold. One thing to remember is to have empathy, even if someone’s a big shot.
Be it multimillionaires, to a-list movie stars, they’re still human and they still have challenges and sometimes their challenges are even bigger than yours.
So, have empathy and remember they still have blood flowing through their veins, they’re not superhuman, they’re not aliens, they’re just normal people, so never assume and you’ll find out that you know they are a lot like you in many ways.
Just be cool of yourself regardless of their status or fame even if you are a major fan.
Forming is a group dynamic, which is when groups come together and then the next phase is storming. Storming is kind of like a pissing contest to find out who is in the jungle. Who is the big alpha male in the jungle so this is the part where everyone brags just be a bit.
You might want to drop a few names, mention one or two things that help people relation to where you are at, for example something that will help people relate to the size of your business. Be cautious that you don’t brag too much, be cautious not to overstep the mark and look like a giant douche bag.
If you happen to find someone who is a speaker and they’re about to go on stage and they’re miking up, remember at this point it is a really bad time to start a conversation. The only thing on their mind is their presentation, they’ve got a presentation to deliver, they’re in the zone and nothing is more important to them at the point than going on stage and delivering their presentation.
It is a terrible time to be having a chat with them or asking them to pose for pictures. Maybe wait until after they’ve spoken because the pressure will be off them, and they’ll be much more relaxed. This also presents an opportunity for you to compliment them on their presentation.
Something else I’ve learnt for those interested in going to Networking events is a lot of the prep that goes into it is called ‘pre-event prep’. Things that would help, like putting your picture on your profile and participating in the group threads that are happening on social media or on private communities around the event. Almost every event has a forum where people can meet each other.
Put your picture there because if aren’t showing a picture, people won’t recognise you. Make the barrier to connecting as low as possible both online and in person. The pre-event prep really helps bridge the introduction and conversation gap.
Networking doesn’t come easily to most accountants because we tend to be introverts, and the ones you see who network well are trained extroverts or are experienced in the skills and art of networking. I hope some of these tips have helped you and if you are going to an event, try them out let me know if they were helpful by posting in the comments below.
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James Huy Vuong is a CPA and the owner of Your Accounting Partners. Partnering with businesses from start to scale thru to sale.