Let’s face it. Networking means meeting people and if you’re reading this, you probably find that exhausting. Not to mention overwhelming. The worst part? It also often feels like a waste of time. Yet you know you have to network, because it is touted as being one of the things you need to do, and do well, to build a successful business.

If you are an introvert, you know you need to carefully manage your energy level or you’ll find yourself depleted really quickly. Spend a few hours at an event, floating around the room without a sense of purpose and you’ll go home wiped out and feeling defeated. Since being around large groups of people is draining, the time spent needs to feel like it was worth it.

What if you could go home after only one hour and feel really good about what you accomplished? Here’s my three-part strategy to network successfully in one hour. These are networking tips for introverts – but extroverts might want to take some notes as well.

1) Don’t just show up.
Before going to any event, spend some time figuring out why attending this event in particular is important for your business. Getting clarity about why this event, this specific event, is important will help you think positively about the opportunities that lie ahead – which may help you muster the energy to actually attend.

While you may not have access to the full guest list you can learn quite a bit about who will be attending with some thoughtful research. Use Google and LinkedIn to learn more about the host committee, sponsors, speakers, and honorees. Where do they work? What will they be speaking about? Are you already connected on LinkedIn or another social media channel? Are they advocates of a cause you believe in?

With this information in mind, consider what your purpose is in attending this event. Refine your “elevator pitch” so it is more relevant to the kinds of people you are likely to meet. Picture yourself excited on your way home because of a connection you had made.

2) Prepare for success
To really be prepared, follow one of my favorite hacks, which was written up in LifeHacker, Prepare for Networking Events by Writing Follow-Up Emails Beforehand.” [click to tweet] This will help you become more aware of who you want to meet and what your purpose is at the event. It will also it much more likely that you will send a follow-up message – which is a critical part of networking.

Here are the specific steps to drafting this message:

  1. Think about the people you’d like to meet at this event – this could be based on job titles, where they work, or any other demographics. If you are thinking about a specific person, than write this email draft with them in mind.
  2. Imagine that you had met them and had a brief conversation at the event. You spent most of the conversation learning about them, by asking thoughtful questions. You had the opportunity to share a little bit about the work that you do and they seemed genuinely interested.
  3. Now write the follow-up message that you’d send in this scenario. Include what you usually say about your work and then add a few more details that you think they would find particularly interesting. Include links to your website, blog, or portfolio.
  4. Save this draft text so it’s ready to be personalized after the event based on who you actually meet. If you are using Gmail, I highly recommend using Canned Responses to manage all of your draft follow-up messages so they are readily available when you’re writing a future email. Not familiar with Canned Responses? Here’s a step-by-step tutorial.

After the event (within 48 hours)

  1. You’ll want to add a sentence or two at the top of the email acknowledging where you saw them and what you had been discussing. Include a specific reference to what they had shared to show you were actively listening and not just waiting for your turn to speak.
  2. Don’t forget to include a reason to stay in touch. Here are a few ideas: Invite them to join you at an upcoming event you’re hosting or attending, ask them to meet you for coffee, solicit advice about a project you are working on, or offer to share their work with your colleagues.
  3. Hit send! Don’t let perfection get in your way. Send the message while the event is still fresh in your (and their) mind.

3) Leave feeling accomplished
Being an introvert may work to your advantage. While extroverts are buzzing around the event like social butterflies, you’ll be much more savvy about how you expend your energy. To feel like networking wasn’t a waste of your time (and limited energy), it’s important to set goals. When setting your goals, be sure you are both meeting new people and reconnecting with those you’ve already met. Relationships require more than one chance meeting, they develop over time. [click to tweet]

If you are a naturally gregarious, you might feel comfortable talking to just about anyone in the room, but as an introvert you know you’ll quickly run out of steam – so be sure you’re focusing your conversations. If meeting people is fairly easy for you, your goal might be to meet three new people and reconnect with three people you’ve already met.

If you are naturally shy you still want to be seen, heard, and respected when you venture out to networking events. Set goals for yourself that help you stretch your comfort zone, but are realistically achievable. This may mean starting with the goal of meeting one new person and reconnecting with one person you’ve already met. As your confidence grows, set higher goals.

“Can I go home now?”

The best part of following this three-step strategy? You can leave once you’ve achieved your goal and feel like you accomplished what you set out to do. You don’t have to stay to the very end of the event and help stack chairs. Leave that for the extroverts who never want to go home.

Since you drafted your follow-up message already, reaching out to the folks you met will be a breeze. Now you’ll be able to focus your energy on building a one-on-one relationship. That is after all the point of networking.

In the comments
Are you a shy extrovert? An outgoing introvert? An ambivert? How does that affect your energy when you go out to networking events?

Share what you find challenging about networking. Maybe your question will end up as the topic of a future blog post!