If you want to be a successful business owner, there’s really no way around it: you have to learn how to network. It’s the most efficient way to learn about business, meet other professionals with similar goals, and build valuable connections that may come in handy down the road.

But what if you’re an introverted business leader? If that’s the case, the thought of having to network with complete strangers can leave you feeling stressed, anxiety-ridden, and unwilling to attend. But if you want to gain knowledge and expand your business potential, you have to come up with ways to cope with a crowded atmosphere.

According to Forbes Insights, eight out of 10 executives believe face-to-face communication is essential in building professional, profitable relationships, so it’s important to make networking part of your regular business strategy.

Just because you’re an introverted business owner doesn’t mean you aren’t suited for entrepreneurial life. This is who you are and the sooner you accept it, the quicker you’ll be able to develop skills and strengths to work around it when you need to.

If you consider yourself an introverted business professional, here are three tips to help you network more efficiently.

1. Set actionable goals

You need to consider your goals when attending a networking event. If you walk in without a clue of what your plan is, you’re going to feel stressed out before you’ve spoken to a single person because you won’t know what to expect.

Make a list of small baby step goals you know you’ll be able to achieve. Be as specific as you can. You want to talk to eight new people? You want to trade business cards with 10 professionals? If a conference is three hours, you want to make it at least halfway through?

Whatever your goal is, stick to it. If you have multiple small goals, think of them as baby steps that will get you toward a bigger goal. For example, let’s say your big goal is to have a one-on-one discussion with a keynote speaker. Whenever you have to make small talk to introduce yourself to someone new, remind yourself that this baby step will help get you to your final big goal. That way, the smaller stuff doesn’t seem so intimidating.

The more you break up your goals into tiny, more achievable ones, the likelier you’ll be able to succeed at them.

2. Practice your elevator pitch

Sometimes called an ice breaker, your elevator pitch is a short spiel of basic information about who you are and what you do that you can rehearse prior to conferences for better delivery. Its delivery shouldn’t take longer than an elevator ride from top floor to bottom and its goal is to build connections, inquire about job opportunities, and learn more.

An elevator pitch usually includes these elements:

  • Your name
  • Your business title
  • The title/position you’re aiming to obtain
  • A valuable skill you possess
  • Asking or expressing interest for more information
  • Inquiring about the other person

For the best delivery, practice, practice, then practice some more. You don’t want to it come out like you’ve been rehearsing it because this will seem disingenuous; rather, you want it to flow and sound as natural as possible. This will help you come off as someone who genuinely wants to make professional connections.

Use conversational language and make your pitch natural by using enough body language and maintaining a fair amount of eye contact. Don’t use tacky sales terms or try too hard to be something you’re not. People can sense phoniness from a mile away. Be yourself, just a more confident, talkative version.

3. Ask questions

The good thing about being introverted and having to mingle with people is that you can use questions to deflect extra attention away from you and onto the other, more talkative person. Being a good listener is a vital skill to have when learning new things. What’s important is asking the right questions.

Think about your business goals. Consider the big picture and what you’d like to get better at, who you’d like to meet, or what experiences you’d like to hear about. Once you find professionals you believe could give you significant answers, you’ll not only feel more comfortable letting them speak, but you’ll learn something that could really benefit your career down the road.

Brainstorm your questions before you have to network. Think about what it is you want to know more about and seek out the right people to chat with for the most valuable insights.

What’s next

Having an introverted personality doesn’t mean you aren’t cut out to do business. There’s a place for everyone. What’s important is using your strengths to your advantage so that you’re able to blend into the conversation and learn just like everyone else. It’s important not to give up as soon as you see a crowd. Remember what you’ve practiced, keep your goals in mind, and ask the right questions.

With enough determination and practice, you should have a networking system that works for you. Don’t be scared to introduce yourself to people, ask for their contact information, or see what’s new with their company so you can learn from them. As business professionals, you’re all in the same boat trying to make connections. With a bit of confidence, you’ll be able to network like a pro.