Do You Dread Networking Events? How Not To
Are networking events excruciating?
Do you avoid them?
Do you stand in a corner, nursing your drink:
Do you stake yourself to the snack table, eating out of sheer nervousness?
You KNOW handling events like these well is critical to getting hired and promoted or building your business. Still, you hate them.
If you're not a natural at these types of events, there are great resources to help you. One I love is "The Fine Art of Small Talk," a delightful book (and audio program) by Debra Fine.
Ms. Fine offers advice that can help you actually enjoy these events. Here are just a few of her suggestions.
Start by preparing for any event with people who aren't close friends by thinking of three topics (current events, movies, etc.) just in case the conversation lags painfully.
Dig for more
Remember to dig for more information. Phrases like these can open up fascinating conversations:
- Tell me more.
- How did that happen?
- What led you to do that?
- Is that something I can do?
Closed questions only get a short answer: "Did you register yet?" "Do you live here?" Barraging someone with closed questions can make them feel like you're interrogating them.
Open-ended questions invite the other person to talk: "How did you get started in this business?" "what's the biggest issue you're facing in your practice these days?"
Use the Four Types of Free Information
People often give us information about themselves by the way they look and act and by what they say. Use them as a springboard for conversation.
1) Verbal-People often reveal things we didn't expect to hear-especially when we ask good questions:
- ¨Back when I lived in Texas...."
- ¨After I left my job at McDonald's..."
- ¨Since I grew up on a farm..."
Any of this free information is fair game for questions:
- ¨How did you like living in Texas?
- ¨What is the culture like at McDonald's?
- ¨How did you come to move to the city?
2) Appearance-Northerners with sun tans in January may have been somewhere warm and fascinating-or may know of a good tanning place. You might ask a woman wearing a sari about her culture or ask a man about a lapel pin he's wearing.
3) Behavior-If she has a different accent, you might ask her what part of the country she's from, or what brought her to the United States. You might ask a lefty what issues being left-handed brings up for him.
4) Occasion/Location-What is the connection that brings you to an event? If you're taking a seminar, "Why did you decide to take this course?" At a professional organization meeting, "What led you to get into this field?"
Avoid traumatizing acquaintances
Avoid awkward gaffes with acquaintances by asking more general questions. For example, if you see Fred twice a year, Don't ask, "How's your job at Verizon?" He might have been fired. Don't ask "How's that delightful wife of yours?" She may have left him.
Instead, say, "Bring me up to date with work," or "Tell me how things are with your family." That way, Fred can tell you what he wants, and you Don't rub his nose in painful topics he'd rather not discuss with you.
If you aren't among those who do networking events effortlessly, be sure to check out resources like Ms. Fine's book. A bit of work can pay big dividends. Who knows, you might even enjoy yourself.
Chemistry is key to getting hired, staying employed, and achieving promotions.Besides, life is more fun when we connect more easily with others.