Ep065: Networking for quiet people with Lori Saitz

ep065 networking for quiet people with Lori Saitz on the TalentGrow Show with Halelly Azulay
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A lot of people think that the best leaders and the best networkers are extroverts. But according to networking strategy coach and professional speaker Lori Saitz, that’s not true at all. A networking maverick who describes herself as naturally quiet, Lori is firm about her central message that you don’t have to be different than you are to be good at networking. Rather than telling people that success at networking requires becoming more outgoing or gregarious, she prefers to share simple strategies and suggestions that anyone can use to improve their networking game. On today’s episode of the TalentGrow show with Halelly Azulay, Lori shares a tip for how to make connecting with people at networking events less intimidating and warns against a common mistake she sees people make when it comes to thinking about networking. Plus, she explains how to get the most out of the networking you do (and therefore, not have to do as much of it!) and gives specific advice for leaders on how to understand (and nurture) their quiet people. Listen now and please share with others!


  • What are “gratitude cookies” and how did Lori use them as the main tool of her first company? (4:05)
  • What pushed Lori to go from quiet and shy to the networking maverick she is today? (5:42)
  • One of the biggest challenges quiet people face is walking into a room full of people where they don’t know anyone. What does Lori recommend quiet people do to be more comfortable in these situations? (7:19)
  • How does Lori define networking? What does she say is a common mistake people make when it comes to thinking about it? (9:36)
  • Why Lori uses the word “quiet” as opposed to other more common terms (such as “shy” or “introverted”) (10:18)
  • “We live in a society that values ____________ to an extreme.” (11:21)
  • What’s something that a lot of people believe, but in Lori’s opinion isn’t true at all? (11:28)
  • What are the 3 parts of networking according to Lori? (13:28)
  • Lori’s suggestions for how to get yourself to (actually!) follow up with people you met with at networking events (16:17)
  • DON’T do this at networking events if you want to maximize your chances of people remembering you (Lori says she’s on a “mission” to stop people from aggravating this pet peeve of hers)! (17:57)
  • Here’s a cool tip for how to make connecting with people at networking events less intimidating (18:50)
  • Lori on why the internet can’t completely substitute in-person networking (21:52)
  • What’s important to think about before you step into the networking room? (doing this can make you have to network less in the long run) (23:12)
  • Lori’s exciting news (inspired by Halelly!?) (25:17)
  • What’s Lori’s approach to book-writing? (25:41)
  • Lori’s actionable tip (she says you should do it this week!) (26:20)
  • What’s something leaders can keep in mind that will help them make their quiet people more comfortable? (27:51)



Despite outward appearances, Lori Saitz considers herself a quiet girl. In 2003, she launched Zen Rabbit Baking Company and introduced the world to The Gratitude Cookie. In order to build that company, she had to learn how to network effectively to find clients and referral sources.

Today, as a networking strategist and speaker, she works with other quiet people on feeling more comfortable networking, starting conversations and connecting. Her services are in demand by business professionals who want to feel more confident initiating and building relationships that support their career and business success.

Lori has more than 25 years of experience in marketing and communications. Before starting ZRBC, Lori worked as an on-air radio personality in South Florida. She has been interviewed by a variety of media and business professionals on podcasts and webinars and she regularly speaks at conferences and events.


Episode 65 of The TalentGrow Show podcast with Halelly Azulay Networking for Quiet Peole with Lori Saitz

Announcer: Welcome to the TalentGrow Show, where you can get actionable results-oriented insight and advice on how to take your leadership, communication and people skills to the next level and become the kind of leader people want to follow. And now, your host and leadership development strategist, Halelly Azulay.

Halelly: Hey there. Welcome back TalentGrowers. I’m Halelly Azulay, your leadership development strategist here at TalentGrow and I am looking forward to sharing today’s episode with you. A lot of people think that the best leaders and best networkers are extroverts, but according to my guest, the quiet professional guide Lori Saitz, it’s not true. Lori shares simple strategies and suggestions that anyone can use to improve their networking game, even when you’re a quiet person. She gives some great tips like how to make connecting with people at networking events less intimidating, what common mistakes she sees people making when it comes to thinking about networking and actually networking. She explains how to get the most out of the networking you do, so that you don’t have to do it as much. She totally helps you know how to network without changing who you are and shares specific advise for leaders on how to understand and nurture their quiet people. I hope you enjoy today’s episode. Listen now, share with others. Thank you for listening.

Welcome back TalentGrowers, I’m Halelly Azulay, your leadership development strategist and I’m on today with my colleague and friend Lori Saitz. Lori is someone I actually met in a previous life for both of us. We used to work together for an organization and she was in a manager of corporate communications role. I was, at the time, just starting out in the training department, which eventually I became the manager of, and since then, each of us has been on a very meandering path that brought us back together through networking, which will be the topic of today’s discussion, as you will see. Because although Lori says she’s inherently good at building relationships, because she is actually someone who defines herself as naturally quiet, and she wasn’t always great at meeting and networking with new people, but she started a business. Her first business was called Zen Rabbit Baking Company, and she learned how to use her quietness to her advantage in networking. Now, she’s a networking strategy coach and speaker and she helps quiet people who are terrified to walk into a room full of people they don’t know feel more comfortable starting conversations with strangers and networking with potential clients and referral sources. She’s in demand by consultants, entrepreneurs, business professionals who want to feel more confident and build relationships that support their business success. She’s been interviewed on a bunch of different media sources and podcasts and speaks regularly at various conferences and events, so I’m really happy to have Lori Saitz on the TalentGrow Show. Lori, welcome.

Lori: Thank you. It’s a pleasure to be here.

Halelly: It is so much fun to have you on. I’m excited. I’ve been thinking about it for a long time, especially because recently this topic of, ”I’m an introvert. I’m a quiet person. I’m shy. I don’t know how to network,” has been coming up so much. So I’m trying to help people as much as possible and I thought, “Who better to have on than Lori?” Because this is what you do for a living. But before we get there, I always like to start with my guests telling us a really brief overview of their professional journey. Where did you start and how did you get to where you are today?

Lori: I started out working as you mentioned in the marketing and corporate communications department of several different organizations. Then I also worked on the agency side for a couple of years, and then I spent a couple of years doing on-air radio before I founded Zen Rabbit Baking Company.

Halelly: Tell us a little more about that too.

Lori: Zen Rabbit Baking Company was my first company that I had, and the purpose of that company was to help business people say thank you to their clients and to people who sent them referrals. The main tool we used to do that was a product called the gratitude cookie, which was based on a family recipe, and we would put together customized gift packages of gratitude cookies and that’s why it was the baking company part of it came from. That was a lot of fun, until it wasn’t anymore.

Halelly: I was just going to say, that’s certainly not the end of that journey until today. Was that the reason why you changed again, away from the cookies to what you’re doing now?

Lori: Yes. There’s a lot of moving parts when you are manufacturing a food product with a shelf life. A fairly short shelf life, in fact. And shipping it all over the world. There are just so many logistical issues and operational challenges and I ran that business for 11 years until I said, I don’t want, this is not where I want to keep going, the direction I want to keep going. It’s time to shut it down and take all of these great lessons that I’ve learned from running this business and put it into the next big thing.

The company is still called Zen Rabbit. I jokingly call it Zen Rabbit 2.0. The focus of what I’m doing now is, as you mentioned, helping quiet people feel more comfortable networking. Because I was always, I was a really shy child. I had a very hard time talking to people I didn’t know, and when I started Zen Rabbit Baking Company, I was business development. I was everything for that business, and so I had to go out and go to networking events and meet people and start conversations and walk into these rooms where I didn’t know anyone, so that I could find clients and people who would send me referrals and beyond that, people who would just be in my corner and help me in whatever way they could in terms of building a business. I had to learn how to overcome that fear as well as put the strengths that I believe quiet people have, figure out how to use them to my advantage, instead of just becoming somebody I’m not, which is super gregarious and outgoing. I sometimes come across that way, so people have a hard time now sometimes looking at me and saying, “Really? You’re quiet?” But certainly no one is ever going to mistake me for the class clown. I’m not going to be the one dancing on tables with a lampshade on my head. That’s never going to be me.

Halelly: That’s a good thing.

Lori: I think so. But how to use the strengths that quiet people have to our benefit. I figured out how to do that and now I want to share that with other people who are struggling in a way that I was.

Halelly: What are the main ways that you’re sharing that? How does your business work?

Lori: Well, one of the things that is a challenge for quiet people in terms of networking is feeling confident and comfortable walking into that room full of people where you don’t know anyone. Because a lot of times, it looks like everyone already knows someone. Everyone is already involved in a conversation, and you feel like, “Great, I’m the only loser who doesn’t know someone here.” You feel awkward and intimidated and you really just want to turn around and run away. But you’re there for a reason and so how can you feel more confident and more comfortable and in managing those situations? I help them create a strategy for feeling more comfortable. It can really boil down to being that simple. It’s a strategy. If you have a plan, you can walk into that room feeling more comfortable. If you thought about it beforehand, it’s like, nobody likes being caught off guard, I don’t think. Certainly not the quiet people. We don’t like being caught off guard. If you feel more prepared and you know you’ve done some homework before you go to an event and then you have some tips and ideas in your head of what to do once you’re there, you can feel a little bit better about going.

Halelly: Good. I want to talk more about maybe you’ll share with us some of the nuggets that you teach people in creating the strategy. Real quick, I think we should pause for a moment, because I also write about networking and talk about networking a lot. I think it’s really important to define it because I find – I don’t know if you share this with me – but I find that half the battle sometimes is just helping people see networking differently and redefine it for themselves so that they have a different mindset about it. I’m curious to know how do you define networking? The second, it’s a two-part question, how did you come to choose the word quiet? I think this is an interesting choice. Not everyone uses that word. People usually say introverts or something like that. So it seems to me like you made a conscious choice and I’m curious to know more about that. How do you define networking, and how do you define quiet and why?

Lori: That’s a good question. My definition of networking is, it’s really about starting a conversation. It’s the foundation of a relationship, of building a relationship. I think one of the common mistakes that people make is that they think of networking as a sales opportunity, or a sales situation, and it’s not. It’s really just about starting a conversation. I tell people to think about it as they’re going into a room to meet a new friend. Sometimes that helps take the pressure off. There’s no pressure here. Just having a conversation, just getting to know someone. That’s it. That’s networking. It’s very simple.

The second part of your question about the term quiet, yes, I definitely consciously choose to use that term because there is so much baggage, I guess, around the terms “introvert and extrovert” and yes, the people that I work with, the clients that do my work, they may be introverts, but they would define themselves as perhaps as quiet people, because again, there’s so much misunderstanding around what constitutes an introvert. Introverts are not necessarily shy, or wallflowers, but I think quiet is a little bit more … what’s the right word … I just feel like it’s a better way of describing the people who are drawn to work with me.

Halelly: Maybe it’s less judging, or less of a stigma?

Lori: Yeah, I don’t know that there’s a … well, yes, there may be a stigma attached to the term introvert, because we live in a society that values extroversions to an extreme.

Halelly: That’s true.

Lori: A lot of people think, “Okay, well, the best sales people and the best leaders and the best networkers are extroverts.” And that’s not necessarily true. In fact, in my opinion, it’s not true at all. A lot of my clients come, they’re working with me because I’m not telling them that in order to be good at networking you have to be more outgoing and be more extroverted and be more gregarious. The whole direction I start from is you do not have to be different than you are. You’re perfect, just as you are. I’m not going to ask you to be something you’re not. They’re attracted to that.

Halelly: Cool. So what do you think is the biggest challenge that the group that’s attracted to you – the people that you’re talking to, the quiet people – what do you think is the biggest challenge that they have? It sounds like the fear, intimidation, of starting new conversations and maybe that’s not what it is, but what is the biggest challenge you find they have, as a unique type of group? And how do you help them overcome it?

Lori: The first thing is what we just talked about, the definition of networking, of redefining what networking is, and putting it into the context of you’re just starting a conversation. You’re not pressuring anyone to buy anything from you or listen to you and so it’s feeling confident and comfortable walking into that room full of people. Again, coming back to that strategy, you have a plan ahead of time, you can relax in the knowledge of “I know what I’m doing.” I think a lot of the challenge comes from feeling like, “I don’t know what I’m doing, I don’t know what to say, I don’t know how to act, and it’s very uncomfortable to have to improvise when the whole situation is foreign to me.”

Halelly: What are some of the things that people tend, or that you tell them to put on their strategy, or that they tend to come up with?

Lori: Networking has three parts, in my mind. The first part is before you even leave your office, creating a strategy that includes the preparation. What can you do before you even walk out of your office to get yourself properly set? That in part includes what exactly are you offering? So if you’re selling a service, let’s say, you work for a company that has a service and they’ve asked you to go to a networking event for your industry, what exactly does your company do and what service does it offer and how are you helping solve a problem? What problem are you solving? Then, the second part of that is, okay, now for whom are you solving that problem? You may have clients internally, within your company, that you’re serving from an HR perspective. Clients are the employees of an organization, for example. If you’re on the sales or marketing team, then perhaps your clients could be both internal as well as external clients. So for whom are you solving this problem?

Then once you get to an event, the second part is what do you do once you’re there? How do you start a conversation or break into a small group that’s already talking? How do you gracefully exit a conversation when you inevitably – it’s going to happen at some point – you’re going to get stuck talking to that guy who has nothing but problems to talk about, and how do you get away from him gracefully without just going, “Okay, this conversation is over, bye-bye?”

And I don’t want to forget, before you even decide to leave your office, how do you choose which events to go to? That’s part of the strategy as well. You don’t want to be wasting your time and, most importantly for quiet people, your energy, to go to events that aren’t going to be fruitful. Then the third part of the whole networking strategy is how do you then follow up on those conversations after an event is over, so that it makes having gone worthwhile? If you’re not going to follow up, don’t even go.

Halelly: Right, what a waste of time? And you get to experience all that anxiety for nothing.

Lori: Right! But how many of us, we know people that come back from events and they have stacks of business cards sitting on their desk and they never do anything with them.

Halelly: Sometimes that’s me.

Lori: Yeah, that’s true. It’s been me in the past too.

Halelly: It’s hard, because we’re so busy and then you get bombarded with whatever things waited for you while you were there, and you’re like, “Oh, I’ve got to do that. I’ll do that later. This is a higher priority. Let me work on this.” Then you keep pushing it away and pushing it away. In fact, let’s talk about that. So, what’s a quick tip you can share to help people avoid that, because I think that’s mostly what happens. It’s not that they don’t know they should follow up, but it just gets pushed off and pushed off until it becomes almost passé, like, “Hey, remember when we met three months ago and I haven’t done anything?”

Lori: Right. Exactly.

Halelly: What should they do?

Lori: They should schedule time in their calendar. You put in an event, let’s say it’s an evening function that you’re going to, then schedule some time maybe tomorrow or the day after – certainly don’t let it go on for three months – sometime within the next week to put those contacts into your CRM system as well as to reach out to them and say, “Hey, it was great meeting you. We’d love to continue the conversation, if you would like to.” Let’s set up a time to connect. The matter of putting that time in your calendar and booking it, just like you put the event into your calendar, put the follow up time in your calendar at the same time.

Halelly: Smart. It’s part of the package. If you’re networking, this is part of networking. Like you said, there’s three parts to it. There’s the first part, which is preparation. Then there’s the part where you go and have conversations, and then the part where you follow up and all of those things need to happen and therefore you should plan for them to happen.

Lori: Yeah, exactly.

Halelly: What are some things you found surprise people or that they are counterintuitive that work really well? In terms of the networking suggestions and tips that you shared for quiet people specifically, what’s one or two of your favorite counterintuitive or surprising tips?

Lori: I don’t know that it’s counterintuitive, but I see it all the time at networking events and it’s like a pet peeve. It drives me insane. So, I am on a mission to get the entire world, the people that are going to networking events, your nametag goes on the right side of your body, up near your shoulder, on the right. Because, when you go to shake someone’s hand, your body turns in that direction, and so they have an easy view of your name. So if you want someone to remember your name and remember you, put your nametag on the right – not on the left, not on your belt buckle – the right side, up near your shoulder.

Halelly: Perfect. Okay, that’s easy and clear to do and you gave the reason. I like it. Any others?

Lori: I like the idea of connecting with people. A lot of times when you sign up to go to a networking event, the event organizers will have a list of people who are committed to attending, that you can see. If you can see who else is committed to going, you can do a little recognizance before you get there and look them up. It’s so easy now, with the internet. I’m not saying stalk them. I’m saying, type in the person’s name. It’s easy, especially with LinkedIn, to see who else is going and see what are they about? Maybe look up three or four or five people and see if you have something in common with them or something, some reason for wanting to meet them, so that when you get to the event, it’s a little less intimidating. Now, well, backing up for one second, you could potentially even reach out to a few of those people before the event and say, “Hey, I saw your name on the list and see you’re going to this event. I’m going too. I’d love to talk with you.” That’s it. Once you get there, you have someone specific to look for, something specific to say to them. Perhaps you looked them up on LinkedIn and say, “Hey, I saw you just wrote this article about XYZ. That was really cool. Did you ever consider …” It’s a conversation starter. You’re looking for ways to connect and find commonalities with them, so if you can do that before you get to an event, it just takes a little bit of the apprehension away.

Halelly: That’s really smart. I think what it can probably help you feel is that it’s less of trying to connect with someone out of the clear blue, totally cold, who is a stranger, right? Because a lot of times – and I think I probably wouldn’t categorize myself as a quiet person, but from what I understand, it feels more comfortable to email someone if you’re a quiet person than to walk up to a stranger in a room, face-to-face, but now that you’ve done that and you’ve got that initial connection and name recognition and sort of some previous encounter with them, it’s warmer to walk up to them, even if you’ve personally never met them.

Lori: Yes, exactly. As you’re saying that, I was thinking that sometimes can be really difficult to do if it’s a very large networking event. And so if you want to just dip your toe into the networking, work your way into it, start by going to some smaller events, where you’re not walking into a room of 500 people.

Halelly: I think it’s really important to have skills to use at events, and that sometimes you can bypass events as your main networking avenue, right? Especially as quiet person, there are probably lots of other ways that feel less awkward and less difficult to do that can give you the same end result. As you said, you’re starting conversations to make friends with people, and lots and lots more quiet, friendly ways to do it than some kind of a big event. What do you think?

Lori: Again, the internet is fantastic tool for connecting with people and you can connect with people all over the world and have conversations and start relationships and that’s fantastic. We have not, as humans, evolved past the need to connect interpersonally. So it’s still important to be able to reach out and talk with people in person, to shake a hand. You’re building a relationship on a completely different level when you can meet someone in person, have a conversation, see their body language, look into their eyes. We’re connecting on a completely different level and as humans, we still need to do that.

Halelly: That’s a great point. That is really important. Well, if there’s one mistake that you could help prevent, other than that nametag on the right, that’s a really common mistake that you know people can easily fix or can readily fix? What would it be?

Lori: At an event?

Halelly: You call it.

Lori: We talked about the follow up piece, which is huge. That people don’t follow up and so that’s one very easily fixable mistake. Another great piece of advice is before you step into a room in a networking situation, is to think about what is it you’re there to do? What is your goal? What is your intention? Kind of set your intention before you step in. Is it to meet a specific person that you connected with beforehand? Is it to get some information about a particular resource that you’re thinking to buy or implement? Can you talk about this with people, have you ever used this? What do you think of it? Are you looking for a resource or information? Or is it simply, it could be as simple as I’m going to meet and talk to three new people. And the reason of having an intention or goal beforehand is so important is because sometimes these events can be two or three hours long, or if it’s a conference it’s three days long, so you want to feel like you’ve accomplished something, and you also don’t necessarily have to force yourself to stay the entire time. But if you have this intention set and once you reach it and you’ve done it, let’s say, in the first hour, you can give yourself permission to leave and still feel good about having accomplished something.

Halelly: I love that. I think that there’s this collective sigh of relief from the quiet people! I love it. Right. Because you don’t need to be there the whole time. If you’re thinking about networking strategically and intentionally, with purpose, then you can do it better, you can know when you’re done, and then you can stop having to do it, since it’s not something you do for fun and giggles, you do it for a purpose, for a reason. Achieve it and move on.

Lori: Right. There’s no need to torture yourself over this.

Halelly: Yes, it’s perfect. Lori, before we share one really specific action item people can act on right away, what’s something that’s really exciting on your horizon? What’s got your attention these days?

Lori: I’ve been inspired by your literary efforts, and I am writing a book.

Halelly: Oh, wow!

Lori: I don’t know what the title is yet. We can go with a working title of The Quiet Person’s Guide to Networking or The Quiet Professionals Guide to Networking.

Halelly: Nice. That is exciting. What’s your approach to book writing, just curious? Are you like the little bit every day kind of person or are you the big spurts of focus kind of person?

Lori: First I gather all the ideas in my head, and then I need to sit down and start writing them out. It’s really hard to get myself to commit to doing it piece by piece, so I think it’s going to be end up being more, “All right, I’m locking myself in a room and nobody talk to me for a week.”

Halelly: You know, that works for me. That’s the way I’ve got to do it. Very cool, I look forward to hearing more about it and of course to reading it when it comes out and maybe we’ll have you back on the show when you’re ready to launch it so we can share it with the world. What’s one specific action that listeners can take that can ratchet up their effectiveness at networking, especially if they’re one of the quiet ones?

Lori: The thing that you can do right away is reach out to someone that you’ve been meaning to connect with or follow up with. Whether it’s from a networking event or not, it’s reaching out and taking that action, because we talked about how important follow up is and how easy it is not to do it. So take that specific action and do it. Who is the person that you’ve been meaning to connect with, and do it this week. Reach out to them. One of the reasons why this business is so important to me is because I feel like it’s so important that we are connected to our other humans, and the world. So few people feel like they’re valuable or important, and when we can connect with them, even if it’s just momentarily at a networking event and even if nothing else ever comes of it, that listening to somebody and having that connection with them, I think is good for everyone involved.

Halelly: You know, actually something that you mentioned to me before we started that I don’t think we covered and should, you were saying the importance of connection. A lot of the people are listening are leaders of others, and one of the things that I think you want to tell them, or share with them, is how they can support that too, as a leader. What’s something that leaders, especially if the leader is him or herself more outgoing or more extroverted, what’s something they can do to support their quiet team members and help them make those connections?

Lori: Thank you for bringing that up. It’s really important for quiet people to have a couple of minutes to compose their thoughts, and extroverts or people who are outgoing, sometimes it’s easy for them to think on their feet so they expect everybody else to be able to do it too. Sometimes the quiet people just need to take a moment and reflect. So helping them create some kind of strategy, or if you’re going to send them out to networking events, help them create this structure and this strategy that they need to feel more comfortable, walking into those situations, and give them a little bit more support and understanding that they operate differently than you do, but they have extremely valuable skills in terms of being able to listen and nurture relationships. That’s really important to a business’s success. If you want your business to be successful, it’s good to help the people who have those skills to be able to use them to the best of their ability.

Halelly: Very good. Well, Lori, thank you for spending time with the TalentGrowers community. I appreciate it and I think that your wisdom is going to help a lot of people. How can people stay in touch, learn more from you and about you?

Lori: Certainly. The website is ZenRabbit.com. Facebook Zen Rabbit, and you can find me on LinkedIn and Twitter and where else? That’s it.

Halelly: That’s a great start. And Lori is a very, well, you can probably tell, she’s a very friendly and open person and shares interesting things with others, so she is a great one to follow and of course that way you’ll be able to learn more from her and hear about her book as it builds and develops. We all look forward to hearing more from you with time, and in the meantime, thank you for your time today.

Lori: My pleasure. Thank you for having me.

Halelly: It’s been fun. I hope you’ve enjoyed this episode, TalentGrowers. Get busy following up on Lori’s advice. Go connect with someone today. Her website and social media profiles are all linked on my show notes page TalentGrow.com/podcast/episode65. And while you’re there, sign up for my free 10 Mistakes that Leaders Make tool, plus that gets you on my short, fun an actionable weekly newsletter, so I’d love to stay in touch with you that way. That way you’ll never miss an episode. And we’re super proud that the TalentGrow Show podcast has been selected to be part of the C Suite Radio Network of high-quality business podcasts, so check it out over there, C-SuiteRadio.com. Get lots of useful leadership advice and insights.

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That’s it for this episode. I’m Halelly Azulay, your leadership development strategist here at TalentGrow and I thank you for listening today. I appreciate you so much and until the next time, make today great.

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