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The Introvert’s Guide to Creative Networking

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Published
August 8, 2013
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I’l admit it: I’ve never been to one of our Liquid Courage event. To be fair, I’ve historically had a commitment on Thursday nights, but still, I didn’t mind missing out. If you’re on the introverted side like me,* the social energy it takes to attend this kind of event can be tough to muster after a day at work. That’s why I want to share my cheat sheet.

 

  • Spend time alone beforehand. Give yourself  some time between work ending and walking into a social event, even if it’s just sitting in your car for 15 minutes listening to music. I like to read a few pages of a good book—but I make sure not to go home first or I’ll never go back out.

 

  • Come late (or early). Some introverts prefer to get to parties/events before things really get rolling because it’s easier to stake out a spot and not feel overwhelmed by everyone who’s there. For me, however, I like showing up when I’m less likely to be noticed and focused on as a newcomer. Do whatever feels more natural for you.

 

  • See who’s going beforehand. Our nifty new event registration process let’s you see who is registered for any given event. If doing some scouting beforehand will make you feel more comfortable, check out the RSVP list. No one has to know—or you can reach out beforehand if there’s someone you’re really eager to meet.

 

  • Bring a buddy. Ask a coworker to join you so you always have someone you can talk to once you’re there. Don’t have a design colleague? No worries—design advocates/appreciators are just as welcome! You might end up in separate conversations, but it’s a nice safety net to know there’s someone who will definitely talk to you if things fizzle out with others.

 

  • Use the bathroom. Whether you have to go or not, head to the bathroom. It sounds odd, but it’s actually not uncommon for those of us who need our space to use a bathroom stall as a way to take a break from social settings.

 

  • Be a listener. Introverts are naturally good listeners, so put some of the conversational burden on others by asking good questions and listening. Ask what people are reading, what they’re designing, what they want out of their careers—you’ll be surprised at what great conversations (and business connections) these simple questions can spark. You can also sidle up to an on-going conversation and listen quietly. Most people will make room for you, especially if you’re not overbearing in your approach (of course you’re not!).

 

  • Find a task. I always feel more comfortable at social events when I have something to do. At many of our events, there’s something a volunteer can help out with. And of course you can tweet or Instagram pictures or videos of what’s going on (let us know @AIGACentralPA). If you don’t have something to do, get something to eat or drink (alcohol optional) to relieve some physical anxiety by keeping your hands busy.

 

  • Don’t overbook yourself that week. Many introverts appreciate planning ahead so they can save up their social energy. Respect this about yourself and focus on one social commitment you really want to keep that week.

 

  • Leave early. These networking events are intentionally come and go. Don’t feel like you have to close the place down or talk to everyone—leave when you’re ready. In fact, you can leave without saying anything—what they call a “shady squirrel” over in AIGA Philly.

 

  • Watch a cat video beforehand. Seriously, who doesn’t feel more relaxed after watching something like this?

 

Our chapter’s events tend to be smaller, making them perfect for more introverted types to get comfortable. Rather than gobs of people, small groups tend to form and you’re likely to actually meet these people at another event. Plus, we’re downright nice.

Feeling more confident? Fabulous—join me at our next Liquid Courage Thursday, Aug. 22 at Tom Sawyer’s in Harrisburg. A board member or two will definitely be there by 6 p.m. if you prefer the early route.

 

*  Technically I’m an introverted-leaning ambivert (e.g., I like asking questions but I find large groups of people intimidating).

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