Let’s face it. A lot of writers are introverts who would rather stay holed up in front of a computer writing their next novel than go out there and network. (I humbly include myself in this crowd.) Networking experts, however, say you need to meet as many people as possible to find the right connections. This leaves us at quite a disadvantage when marketing and promoting our books or writing services thanks to the painful nature of getting out in public.
Writer’s conferences and get-togethers usually have some sort of networking event scheduled where you can schmooze with other writers, meet publishers and editors, and get your drink on. These also usually occur in some crowded, noisy bar where your run the risk of multiple drinks being spilled on your just-cleaned suit.
This is an introvert’s nightmare, frankly: loud, noisy, crowded rooms of people shouting to be heard over the band and elbowing your way through throngs of people to get a fortifying drink at the bar.
If you shy away from gatherings like this, we have a few tips that will help you face the crowds and connect with others at networking events, all without turning yourself inside out.
Discover your personal networking best practices
Are you a morning person? Or maybe you’re at your best during the day or early evening. Do you prefer minimally stimulating environments, not crowded, noisy events? Stack the deck in your favor, and only go to networking events that meet your specific conditions. You don’t need the extra burden of attending networking activities that put you at an immediate disadvantage because it’s too early in the morning for you or the environment is loud and uncomfortable.
Search for quality over quantity
A lot of networking experts say you need to meet a lot of people before you find the right connections. This is incredibly intimidating for an introvert and probably not that effective. It’s just more times for you to feel awkward and uncomfortable. In the beginning, I recommend breaking down your networking into bite-sized chunks. Start out with once a month until you begin to feel more comfortable. Once you have devised some of your own strategies that make networking more bearable (pre-preparing 2-3 conversation topics, going with a networking buddy, attending events in spaces where you already feel comfortable, etc), then begin to add a few more to your calendar.
This is also the same mindset you should have about the event itself. Don’t try to meet as many people as possible—that’s just not the best tactic for an introvert. Instead, search for and talk to two or three people who look approachable. Spend your limited energy getting to know these few people really well.
Change your modus operandi
Networking events will almost always be attended by other introverts who, like you, dread approaching strangers and making small talk. Be the person who finds them and makes them feel comfortable. See that person skulking back behind the potted plant? Likely an introvert who is feeling awkward and desperately hoping that someone will speak to them. Just take a deep breath, go up to them, and start a conversation. They wouldn’t be there if they weren’t hoping to meet people too.
Cultivate active listening
Most people love to talk about themselves, which is a boon for the introverted networker. If you ask the right questions, sometimes you can let someone speak for 75% of the conversation and they will come away thinking that you are very clever and insightful. Prepare some leading, open-ended questions that will help you learn more about them, and then really focus on what they’re saying. You might find a kindred spirit, or you might find someone with valuable advice on how to tackle a writing problem or connect with a publisher. Listen to figure out what they think is important and then, instead of giving your own opinion on the topic, ask for their advice as it relates to your particular situation.
Network at online conferences instead of in person.
Cyber conventions are becoming more and more popular. Instead of hosting big expensive events that require participants to travel, many industries are now running their conventions online with webinars replacing seminars, live streams replacing panel discussions, and message boards replacing water coolers.
If you are a writer, you should take part in the Brain to Books Cyber Convention and Book Expo. It offers the opportunity to virtually meet publishers, editors, educators, book designers, as well as other writers who are on the same journey as you. You can get advice from experienced professionals on everything from building an author platform to executing a marketing plan. The online networking will help you grow your newsletter subscribers and find new readers for your work. They also run fun online events like “The Cover Wars”, “Character Tournaments”, and an online after party. Really, the cyberconvention offers most of the benefits of a writers’ conference, but you can stay in your pajamas and no one is likely to spill a piña colada down your shirt.
It’s all about finding the type of gatherings that work for you. When you follow the above tips, you’ll find you’re more successful at networking and you may find it more enjoyable. Remember, do networking your own way; don’t try to fit in someone else’s mold.
More about the Brain to Books Cyber Convention
B2B CyCon attracts authors and readers. Visit Publisher’s Alley and find book cover artists, editors, publishers, educators, and writing tools. It is easier than ever to find the service you need to write, publish, and market your book. Getting in front of readers is a great opportunity, but the best part of the convention for authors is the interaction prior to the event that allows you to network with other authors, learn essential marketing skills, get great tips, and have lots of time to plan and put those skills and tips into action to promote your involvement in the convention.
Organized by authors for authors, everyone works together to help each other succeed. Brain to Books is a hands-on school for authors. Authors execute guerilla and drip marketing as a team, allowing you to learn marketing and networking as you go.