Taking (most of) the ‘work’ out of Networking - Part 6: Giving the right impression
In my last piece we talked about not being phased by networking, the first step being to plan ahead by asking the organizers for an attendance list and targeting the people you want to meet. This time I’m going to look at the event itself, after all, it’s fine to have a plan, but if you’re shredded with nerves and just don’t enjoy socialising like this you’re going to need more than just a plan.
The first of which may sound odd but it’s this: Be amongst the first to turn up. The second is: Treat the event like it’s your own party. Be a host or hostess… think about it, when you throw a party you greet everyone as they turn up, you make sure they have a drink, you introduce people to others you think they may find interesting, and you keep busy. One thing you don’t do is sit in a corner wishing you were somewhere else. Use the same technique when networking, turn up early, welcome everyone as they arrive, show them where to hand in coats and get a drink and, if there’s anyone hanging around looking lost, make a point of introducing someone to them, or, of course, of talking to them yourself, especially if your ‘targets’ haven’t arrived yet.
The third tip if you’re not a natural networker is to go with a friend. It’s much easier to work in pairs, especially when it comes to introducing yourselves to someone. “Hi, this is my friend x, and my name is y” somehow flows more easily off the tongue than just, “Hi, my name is x”, and again is easily to extol the virtues of a friend than it is to extol your own, even when that friend is standing right beside you.
Another thing. Don’t crowd in…now that I’m approaching my dotage I have a problem focussing up close, so there are few things I find more off-putting that conversing with someone who insists on placing their face only inches from my own. What’s worse is when I find myself being backed across the room as I try to restore focal distance. What’s much worse is when the person concerned is either on the Atkins Diet or eats carrion. I remember my first lesson in prayer counselling. Expecting something deeply spiritual it was simply to always remember the breath freshener, and the same is equally true of networking.
Some of those reading this will already know the phrases ‘open two’ or ‘closed three’; they refer to the conversations that your fellow networkers will be having between themselves. If you see two or more people all facing each other and deep in conversation the odds are they are a ‘closed two (or three or four)’ and not likely to welcome your intrusion. If, on the other hand the same people are talking, and there’s room to breathe between them and there’s a general air of facing outward, then you’re probably witnessing an ‘open two (or three or four)’, who are open to you joining them. Do so, they’ll be happy to help you get into the conversation.
Finishing a conversation…
You’re twenty minutes into a discussion with someone you would really rather not be talking to at all, the clock is moving on and there are still three targets you want to talk to. How do you end a conversation without being hurtful? Well, one way is to introduce them to someone else, another is to suggest another drink / sandwich and get into a wider conversation once you get to the bar / buffet. Another is to apologise profusely but you have to go to the loo…and another still to see someone who you do need to talk to and say so. Whatever you do, do it nicely. Remember that last time it was you who wasn’t enjoying networking!