7 practical tips to network as an introvert. Protect your energy and prevent an introvert hangover.


7 Tips to Network As An Introvert Without Draining Your Energy

November 21, 2023

I'm Jess. This blog is a collection of everything I've learned as I rebuilt my self-image from a burned-out-extrovert-wannabe to an at-ease-introvert-bookworm.
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My relationship with networking reads like a 2010s relationship status on Facebook: it’s complicated. As a business owner, I can’t deny the value of making and nurturing connections. But, as an introvert and Highly Sensitive Person with a pattern of burnout, I’ve learned to network with caution (and even some hesitation). It’s a conundrum: I don’t want to push myself beyond my energetic limits and run out of fuel, but I also want to make the most of opportunities.

As such, I’ve had to rethink how I approach networking – especially in-person events which can be the most draining. I’ve come up with a system that helps me network without the dreaded introvert hangover. I recently attended a 3-day conference and put it to the test. Here’s what I did and how it benefited me.

Note: I’ve found these strategies work best at smaller, more intimate events. However, they can also applied to larger events with some tweaking. Also, attending a networking event as an individual contributor is different from attending as a representative of your business or employer. As always, take what resonates with you and leave what doesn’t. You can always come back to these recommendations another day.

7 practical tips to network as an introvert. Protect your energy and prevent an introvert hangover.
Introverts may feel obligated to network like their extroverted colleagues. Yet the most strategic way to network as an introvert is to honor your limits and create conditions that put you first.

Tip #1: Set An Intention Before The Event

Setting an intention (or goal or desired outcome) before an in-person event is key.

In-person events tend to have a lot going on: booths, demos, sales reps, presentations, panels, workshops, social hours… it’s impossible to see and do it all. (And if you tried to, what would be the cost?) Having a desired outcome helps you prioritize your attention and energy.

As someone who journals a ton, I answer these prompts beforehand:

  • Why am I attending this event?
  • At the end of the event, I’d like these questions answered… {list them}
  • What and who are the best avenues to getting the answers I seek? (It helps to reference the event’s agenda at this point.)
  • I will feel best after this event if… {list what you’d like to do during the event, as well as what you’d like to do for yourself (to protect your energy) during the event}

Then, I dilute my answers into a concise intention statement.

In the case of the event I attended, my intention statement was:

My time, energy, and attention will be in service of writing a better book and feeling more confident about how to distribute my book (for example, traditional vs. hybrid vs. self-publishing). All other knowledge is nice-to-have but not necessary, and I release myself from doing it all.

Use it as a filter to select the sessions, content, and people you’d like to engage with.

Also, allow it to reassure you if intrusive thoughts come up, like “I’m not doing enough” or “I’m not taking full advantage of this opportunity.” As an overachiever who has struggled with “cutting corners,” having an intention saves me a lot of heartache by challenging these hurtful thoughts.

Tip #2: Skip Introductory Events

In my experience, I have found introductory events to be helpful, but not pivotal.

They are great for setting expectations and creating hype, but they also tend to focus on small talk and meet & greets which drain introverts. They also don’t provide as much detail as subsequent workshops and panels.

On paper, attending an introductory event seems like a great idea but, in practice, the cost outweighs the benefits if you’re an introvert aiming to network without exhausting yourself.

In my case, I skipped the first official day of the event (which primarily consisted of a dinner), opting to get a good night’s rest instead.

As much as I would have liked to join dinner, I knew I would have been drained by it, so I made the conscious choice to skip Day 1 and preserve my energy for the next two days. Ultimately, this supported me and aligned with my intention for the event.

Tip #3: Let Yourself Be The Observer

If you’ve spent a portion of your career or life pretending to be an extrovert, this recommendation may be a hard one to implement. Trust me – I’ve been there… but it’ll serve you in the long run.

Rather than jumping straight into meeting people, take inventory of the event first.

Attend some of the sessions or workshops you’ve flagged and identify people you’d like to get to know better (it can be presenters, event staff, or fellow attendees). Pinpoint booths or demos you’d like to engage with. Then, assess the rest of your itinerary and identify opportunities to connect with them between sessions or during events.

I spent Day 2 jotting down names of people and companies that I wanted to learn more about before the event ended. Then, I came up with a game plan of when I’d approach them on Day 3 and what I wanted to share or ask.

In truth, I had every intention of being a quiet observer at first, but the Universe made it a point to reinforce this decision. I was late to Day 2 thanks to Miami traffic and struggling to find parking. I ended up parking a mile away from the venue. 

Thankfully, it was Miami in November, and I was able to walk the mile. However, it was Miami in November so I was drenched in sweat by the time I arrived at the hotel. I was overwhelmed before even stepping foot into the event thanks to the stress of driving, finding parking, and navigating the busy streets of South Beach.

Knowing that this option (observing quietly) was available to me made the morning so much more bearable. I took what I needed as an introvert while still getting what I sought from this opportunity.

Tip #4: Don’t Feel Guilty About Eating Lunch In Solitude

Lunchtime at in-person events immediately takes me back to starting a new school and not knowing where to sit in the cafeteria. It’s stressful, confusing, and can even lead to feelings of insecurity if you haven’t forged strong connections yet (like, why does everyone else have “friends” except for me?).

At in-person events, there’s pressure to socialize during lunch (sometimes unspoken and sometimes spoken but well-meaning). In my case, however, a solitary lunch that bypasses all this stress is best for recharging my energy.

With this in mind, I packed lunch for both days (that way, I didn’t have to stress about finding a place to eat, potentially long wait times, and being exposed to a noisy environment).

Instead of joining others for lunch on Day 2, I found a quiet and comfortable spot at the venue. I ate my lunch, reflected on the morning’s presentations, and read a cozy winter romance to reset.

On Day 3, however, I felt more comfortable and confident and accepted a generous invitation to join fellow attendees for lunch. Still, I knew I had the option to take lunch in solitude if I needed it and I’m grateful for the option.

Learn how you can successful network as an introvert without draining your energy. 7 practical tips for in-person events.
Eating lunch in solitude is one way I protect my energy when I network as an introvert. I also use this time to take a reading break. Although small, this break helps me decompress. On this day, I was reading a holiday romance by Jenny Bayliss.

Tip #5: It’s Okay to Leave a Networking Event Early (Or Arrive Late)

Maybe it’s just me, but I have struggled with a “get my money’s worth” mindset when I attend in-person events. If I had to guess, it comes from working in marketing and advertising.

When you’re sent to an event, the money is coming from the company’s L&D (learning and development) budget. You’re not only expected to absorb *as much as possible* to justify the investment but you’re often expected to disseminate all you learned upon your return.

As such, I’m always tempted to show up first and stay till the end, even if it doesn’t serve me intellectually or energetically. I’ve had to work to rewrite this (unrealistic) standard I’ve set, but having an intention for the event has helped push this along.

It’s also helpful to consider your human needs when you network as an introvert: sleep, time to get ready, time to eat a nourishing meal, etc. when planning when you’ll arrive and leave.

In my case, I reviewed the event’s agenda ahead of time and identified the sessions that aligned with my intention and gave me time to meet my needs, then I committed to attending within those hours – even if it meant skipping workshops or panels outside of those hours.

I may have arrived late and left early, but I was able to protect my peace, and that’s the most important thing.

Tip #6: You Don’t Have to Meet Everyone Just Because It’s a Networking Event

In the past, I’ve pressured myself to connect with as many people as possible (does this sound familiar?). Again, that’s something that’s lingered from my time in advertising and marketing when I felt obligated to “make the most” of a networking event even if it used up all my energy.

Now, I use my skills of observation and my intuition to decide who I’d like to meet. I select people based on what they share and their vibe (how they make me feel is as important as who or what they know).

If this sounds cold, I’d counter it’s strategic. As lovely as meeting everyone at an event seems, I know I’d feel horrible after… and, after a certain point, people would not be meeting the best version of me.

I am also a firm believer that people are kind and want to help. I believe that people will introduce me to other people I may have missed (because I’d do the same).

When I recently applied this principle, I was able to meet everyone I wanted to meet and make meaningful connections.

Successfully navigate an in-person networking event as an introvert with these 7 practical tips.
When you network as an introvert, it doesn’t have to end in an energy hangover. Make networking work for you with these tips.

Tip #7: Take It Easy for 24-48 Hours After the Event

Even though the event ends on a specific date, its effects on your nervous system and body could linger. 

There’s all the adrenaline and subsequent exhaustion of traveling, meeting new people, consuming new content, and (hopefully) being energized by what you learn. It’s normal to need a day or two to feel at ease again after an in-person event.

That said, it’s ideal to take it easy right after. Give yourself a space to recalibrate to prevent a more time-consuming outcome, like an introvert hangover.

In my case, I planned to work a half day on the Monday after the event. In the afternoon, I focused on less strenuous tasks like sourcing photos and formatting blog posts.

Also, I didn’t rush to send email follow-ups the day after the event. This is probably my most controversial take. While many sources say “follow up right away or else,” you’ve got to assume that everyone else is in a similar boat. They’re traveling, they’re tired, and they’re trying to ease back into their routine.

When you pause before sending follow-ups, you can approach them with a clear mind and you’ve got the chance to set an intention for each follow-up as well.


I won’t lie and say I enjoy networking. The sum of its parts is still draining to me as an introverted person. But when I network on my terms as an introvert, with a clear goal in mind, it’s possible for me to connect with others without sacrificing my well-being.

Remember, fellow introvert, it’s okay to do things your way… even if they’re not “right” by society’s standards.

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