If the thought of mingling with a crowd of strangers makes you break out in a cold sweat, you’re not alone. But Sacha Chua, an enterprise 2.0 consultant, believes you don’t have to be an extrovert to network well. She even created a presentation geared toward “shy connectors” that’s spreading virally on the web.
“Change your perspective,” she says. It’s not a popularity contest. “[Networking] is not about selling yourself; it’s about helping others, learning and sharing.”
Give people reasons to talk to you. For example, blog about your interests. Other people will talk to you because you know something they want to learn, Chua says.
Look for ways to help. Ask good questions that draw people out and make them think. Recommend books and web sites that help people learn. “As you learn more and as you meet more people, you’ll put the pieces together,” she says.
Assign yourself homework. After a conversation, write down as much as you can remember in a small notebook or the back of a business card. Did you promise to follow up with a link or resource? Do it. “Remember, you’re not selling yourself, you’re helping people and learning along the way,” says Chua.
Make it easy to get to know you. When you help others, they’ll want to know and help you, too. So make it easy for them to find and know you: include URLs or keywords on your business card, blog about your interests, and use LinkedIn to keep in touch.
Keep practicing. “The more you think, listen, speak and write, the more you figure out who you are, what you want to say, why it matters and how you want to say it,” Chua says. “And the happier you’ll be.”