Recently on the blog I laid out some strategies for self-promotion for people who were reluctant promoting themselves and their work. It proved to be one of our most popular blog posts thus far. Initially, I had thought about discussing what to do when it came to self-promotion and networking if you were also an introvert, but decided to tackle that separately…hence this post.
My name is Lynnaire MacDonald…and I am an introvert. Introversion gets a bad rap sometimes. People mistake it for shyness or think that introverts are unable to socialise effectively- not true! In fact, when people meet me they’re amazed when I say I’m an introvert. Introverts think deeply, have rich inner worlds and yes, when they need to they can shine on the stage, do the TED talk and show the world what they’ve got. You can see the definition of introversion here, but the real meat of it is that introverts are energized and drained in ways that are different to their extrovert peers. Introverts are energized by introspection and solitary activities, whereas they are easily drained by group activities and loud, busy environments.
Does that mean that being an introvert is a barrier to doing things like promoting your work, or attending networking events? Not at all. The key to doing so in a way that keeps you from feeling drained or overwhelmed is by having a few strategies up your sleeve. These are some of my tried and tested strategies:
Choose networking events and conferences wisely: as much as introverts would prefer to network with people via e-mail and social media, networking events or conferences are inevitable. The key is choosing events and conferences wisely. What do I mean by this? In my experience, small-talk can be draining, but really focused conversations about a topic are energizing for me and I get the most out of them. So, for instance, a general women in business-type networking event would be draining but going to a filmmaking networking evening or conference brings out the best in me because I can talk about the minutiae of filmmaking with the people I meet.
Have a conference or networking ‘wingperson’: sometimes there will be conferences or networking events where you don’t know anyone, and that can be unavoidable. But if you are attending an event and know someone else who is attending, think about asking them to be your ‘wingperson’ if it’s the first time you’ve attended that event. I had this happen last year at my first Big Screen Symposium. A friend and mentor was also attending and kindly introduced me to other people. This year I know I can attend the Symposium and I will see more than a few familiar faces.
Don’t be afraid to make an e-mail introduction: email introductions are fine, too, as long as each e-mail is genuine. No copy and paste, please! I have to do this often in my line of work so I’m used to doing this, but if you’re feeling a bit reluctant to reach out, test the waters by sending out one introductory e-mail a day for 5 days. Then 2 for 5 days, and so on.
Manage your energy levels: constant interaction with people over a sustained period of time can be draining, so it’s important to manage this by taking some ‘alone time’. Whether that’s grabbing some time to sit and read a book for a few minutes, or going for a solo walk, you need that time to recharge.
Know your ‘voice’: self-promotion and networking as an introvert it can be difficult but it’s not insurmountable. It’s all about finding your ‘voice’ in various situations. For instance, I use a lot of humour in social media posts. I’m not afraid to say that something is shameless self-promotion, or use a cringe-worthy pun or ‘Dad joke’. Finding your ‘voice’ can be your superpower, because you know what works for you and what doesn’t. For instance, you won’t find me gushing over someone. I physically can’t do it- I find it draining and inauthentic. But I can connect with someone via social media over a shared interest or opinion. I once bonded with a fellow PR person over the UK version of Wallander (we had differing opinions on pickled herring, however).
Being an introvert is not a personality flaw. In fact, tapping into your ability as an introvert can help you both at work and in your personal relationships.