Terri Viani got her professional start as a screenwriter with Jumbo Pictures/Disney in New York on ABC's Brand New Spanking Doug. After completing her time on Doug, she worked as a freelancer at Disney and Vigilante Advertising (Leo Burnett) before moving to New England to work as a columnist for The Westerly Sun in Rhode Island and later, as a journalist for Stonebridge Press and Villager Newspapers. Follow Terri on her website, Instagram and Twitter: @thewriterink
Introverts are internal combustion engines. We like being alone, gathering our energy from quiet strolls through our own heads. Too much of that good thing known as humanity tends to drain us like an Apple battery, often starting well before the networking does, when we fret about who will be at the event and what we'll say. The good news is, there are simple things we can do before, during, and after to rock our networking and protect our introvert energy.
1) Rehearse Your Material. Know your work so well that you don’t even have to think about it. So well that even if someone should, oh I don’t know, let fly a belch in the middle of your pitch (yes, this happened to me), you’ll carry on like Sherman marching to the sea. We all think we know exactly what’s going to happen in Season Two of our Great American Drama, but what makes perfect sense in our heads often detours into gibberish on the way out of our mouths. Practice, practice, practice.
2) Talk to Yourself About... Yourself. Just like our fictional stories, our real-life stories often get jumbled in the telling. Someone asks, “So, what do you do other than write?” and in response we offer up a cheeseball personal ad. “Uh, I’m a Sagittarius who enjoys dancing, long walks on the beach, and meeting like-minded people for conversation and more.” Have a few engaging personal anecdotes in your hip pocket at all times, preferably funny or heartwarming.
3) Reframe It. We introverts often build-up networking in our heads as NETWORKING, capital letters in bolded font with the Imperial March playing behind. Retrain your brain to see networking events as no more stressful than meeting friends for coffee. I can hear the introvert laughter from here. Trust me, over time this reframing advice given to me by a pitching coach works.
4) Know Thy Person/People: Research the person/persons with whom you'll be networking. Find out what projects they’ve worked on, what companies they’ve worked for. Asking specific questions about someone's life or a company's slate not only shows that you know your stuff, it also goes a long way towards keeping the conversational pressure off of you. People like to talk about themselves. Let them.
5) Get Curious: Writers need curiosity in order to do what we do in general but we rarely think to use it as a networking tool. If your nerves are about to get the better of you, reframe. Cultivate your curiosity about the people around you rather than focusing on your fear. Bring an active energy to what’s in front of you. This form of mindfulness allows you to stay present and adds a playful spirit to your interactions.
6) Incentify Yourself: Remember when you were little and Mom said you could have animal crackers if you made it through grocery shopping without screaming? Same thing. Get through the networking event without hiding behind potted plants or talking only to the friend you’ve dragged along, and you get to have animal crackers. Or a bottle of wine. Introverts choice!
Learning to network effectively is a process that happens over time and with practice, so be patient with yourself as you build your skills. We introverts may have a few unique challenges to overcome on our way to networking success, but there’s nothing that says we too can’t rock the room. We may even learn to enjoy it - eventually.
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