When I hear people talking about how much they hate networking events, my brain immediately thinks “Qué”? (which is Spanish for WHAT? and with my limited knowledge of the language, that’s about all I got). But since the post mentions that today is brought to you by the letter “Q”, I figured I better make my opening quirky. (raises eyebrows up and down like…get it?)
Well, technically this post is not brought to you by the letter “Q” as much as it is about networking at events and how I grew to enjoy it. Now a networking event doesn’t always mean the traditional “let’s exchange business cards” type of event, here are some others and see how many you recognize as “networking events” – a business meeting, company party, neighborhood block party, cookout, church event, fundraising gala, wedding…. So with these events in mind, here are several tools I learned over the years which have helped me tremendously. I can’t claim to be the originator of these tips, but I have applied them and they have worked in most cases. I hope they help alleviate some of the queasiness you feel before your next networking activity.
Quest – make it your quest to make the obviously uncomfortable person in the room feel more comfortable. You know who I’m talking about, that person standing alone, awkwardly clutching their drink and fumbling with their phone. The one who looks like they wish a cloak of invisibility would envelop their body right in the middle of the room? Go talk to them, make it your quest to find out something about this person. By doing this, you will not only quell your own fears, but you’ll be helping to quash another person’s as well. (honestly, I didn’t think I’d find this many “Q” words before I started this blog but I’m enjoying it now, so roll with it)
Questions – You may be thinking, that’s interesting advice, but what do I do in order to make another person feel better about their networking situation? Well, I’m glad you asked, because it brings us to our next “Q” word. Ask them some very targeted questions, but don’t ask them so they end up thinking you’re creepy, just open-ended questions to start a conversation. If you get to the 5th question and you are both still just kind of staring at each other, my apologies to the both of you.
- What’s your name? This is a fundamental question asked by all children who want to make friends. Don’t worry if you forget their name as soon as they say it, here’s a tip; at the end of the conversation just ask their name again and make a remark like “I really want to be sure I got your name correct, was it Todd”? or “forgive my forgetfulness – please tell me your name again, so when we meet another time I’ll remember”
- Where do you live? Remember the creepy reference from above, this question is where this comes into play. I prefer to phrase this question as “Do you live locally, Todd”? (less creepy). If yes – tell them what you like about the town/place they live. If no – ask from where, and some general questions about why they enjoyed living there.
- What did you like about your last vacation? Totally open ended, and even if they haven’t taken a vacation in years or stayed home and read the latest Quidditch techniques; this question is still relevant.
- What do you do at your job, work, career? If they don’t work, an alternative question is How do you like to spend your time?
- What do you enjoy doing with your family? This is a great way to phrase the question because it doesn’t matter what kind of family situation, this topic can produce a quality discussion.
Quick Summary of yourself – I would recommend before going to your next networking activity that you do a quick summary of your answers to the questions noted above. Have some thoughts ready so when the conversation continues, you can also talk about your experiences.
Well this post was a lengthy one, I hope it quenched your thirst for knowledge on how to hate your next networking activity less. Good luck!