Interactive displays, augmented reality, and event tech innovations have made exhibitions and trade shows more exciting than ever before. However, if you are an introvert, the idea of networking in this crowded, flashy expo can be daunting to say the least.
Introverts are often characterized as people who tend to thrive when they are alone rather than in the company of others. If you put more importance on ideas rather than social interactions, do not prefer to be in large groups, or struggle to start conversations, then chances are you’re an introvert.
However, being an introvert should not stop you from attending exhibition events and effectively expanding your network. Here are some actionable steps that you can follow.
Before the Event…
Get to know the attendees
Preparing yourself prior to the event is called pre-networking. There is nothing worse than standing in the middle of an exhibition floor like a deer in the headlights, not knowing what to do.
Check the event’s website and if you are familiar with any of the companies or attendees listed in the directory. Having someone you know in attendance will be a great starting point in encouraging you to show up. These people may even be able to introduce you to other attendees. Even if you don’t know anyone, note the names of people you’d like to meet and if possible, try to arrange a meeting together ahead of time.
Sign up for activities
Try to fill up your schedule with conferences, seminars, and brunch and cocktail get-togethers offered at the show. The more events you attend, the more comfortable you’ll become gradually being around people. There will also be more opportunities for you to meet different individuals at these events.
Practice your brand story and make it personal
It’s not enough to tell people your name and where you work — besides, your name tag (if you have to wear one) will do that for you. Share your personal brand story of what led you to your current role to better create lasting connections. Avoid generic answers to common questions and ask questions to those you meet to keep the conversation going too.
If you need to practice beforehand, go ahead! Practice your answers in front of the mirror using your personal insights for you to sound authentic and not memorized. If you get nervous, don’t overshare or ramble about irrelevant topics. Instead, inject some humor or anecdotes into your responses.
During the event…
When you arrive, avoid blending into the wallpaper or sitting in the back of the room. Doing this will project the perception that you’d rather be alone and not approached.
It’s tough to do, but try to sit in the front couple of rows during conferences and challenge yourself to raise your hand and ask questions to the speaker when opportunities arise to do so. This helps you become a familiar face in the crowd and allows other attendees to warm up to you.
Adapt an approachable vibe
It is natural to feel nervous and stiff in public, especially when you are in a crowded environment filled with overly energetic people.
Take a deep breath before going in. If you cannot muster the willpower to approach another person, that’s okay. Start in small steps by offering a genuine smile to people around you and using a relaxed stance. Your body language and non-verbal cues will invite other networkers to approach you and help break the ice.
In order to effectively network, you must be able to clearly share your elevator pitch. However, that doesn’t mean you should spend the whole time talking about yourself. Engage the person you are speaking to by asking questions and listening to what they have to say.
Connect on social media
More than 95% of businesses around the globe are on social media. Maximize this opportunity while you are at the expo. Bring your business cards and make sure they include information about where to find and connect with you on sites like Twitter and LinkedIn.
After the event…
After surviving the exhibition, your work isn’t done yet. Send a follow-up email or connect on LinkedIn at least three days afterwards. This gives your contact time to adjust back to work and their inbox. Keep in touch regularly with your new contact. If possible, invite your new contacts out for coffee or lunch. Even if they may not be potential clients, building and maintaining a social relationship with them will boost your confidence as an introvert.
Introduce your contacts to others
There is a possibility that you will meet people who are not related to what your business does. Instead of disregarding these contacts altogether, try to think about those in your network that may benefit with an introduction. This helps to expand your circle and allows you to be seen positively by both parties.
Nathan Sharpe is the entrepreneur behind Biznas. He knows that the life of an SME isn’t easy, and you have to wear many different hats in order for your business to be a success. He helps others achieve this success by sharing everything he knows over on his blog, as well as any new lessons he learns along the way! Find Nathan on Twitter @biznassa.