Observing 100 or so people at Networking workshops this week has taught me something: even the brightest and most articulate can dread the prospect. When mention of core survival skills comes up, there is much frantic note-scribbling. Assuming some of you may be in the same boat then, here are some tips:
- 1. Invent a purpose or research project to do while you are networking. This gives task and structure to the whole shaboodle. Your purpose could range from cheering people up, to enthusing about a new project to finding out the lowdown on a new director. Remember gossip is just another word for knowledge transfer.
Get an opening line prepared. Here are some to avoid: ‘ I couldn’t help notice, but how long have you been suffering from stress?’ or ‘I hope you don’t mind me asking, but are those your own teeth?’ ( in Davies family archives).
The queenie ‘ And what are you up to at the moment?’ may work better.
Before the event you may want to mentally tag some interesting news snippets from twitter or other media. Then if the talk dries up totally, you have an offer.
For reassurance find people who look similar to you: for creative collaboration, find people who are distinctively different.
- Work out beforehand who you would like to chat to and what about. Use Linked In and other resources to find out what their latest news is. Indeed this is calculating but if you are seeking collaborators, then it is a shortcut. Where you choose to reveal this level of interest, try not sound like a cyber-stalker.
Prepare an exit strategy. Useful ones include: you’ve had news to say a) the whole family has nits b) the burglar alarm has gone off c) pet dog is eating pet rabbit .
Than make sure you thank big wigs and important types profusely for the excellent event, before heading off home early to drink cocoa and watch Spooks.
- ‘Do you know how long the period of incubation for Bird Flu is?’ is useful for getting rid of a bore.
Never be desperate – instead ask lots of open questions. Breathe in and out slowly if your heart rate could come down. Quash shyness by reminding yourself that your experiences of shame and humiliation are of interest only to yourself ( notwithstanding specific preferences in your sex life ).
Remind yourself that networking is about creating possibility and endorsing connection between people. Not much more than that…
ps You can do all the above ( happened here recently) and still find yourself standing around like a prune for half an hour while no one talks to you. Even though by the end of this time my friendliness level would not have been misplaced on the streets of Pigalle.
Problem?: all middle aged blokes in suits. Solution?: avoid these types of gatherings.
Philosophy? : Am not in the club anyway!
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