During a recent networking event, I realized that although I had only been working for a few months after graduating college, my hand shaking skills were not in tip top shape. There were a few things that I said that might have sounded awkward to someone who had never met me before. I certainly did not do anything inappropriate, but I am not sure I was on my A Greeting Game.
Working in an office for eight hours a day five days a week gets a person into a routine. The people you speak to on a daily basis rarely change. Except for some turnover or the clients you may call, we feel we have communication down to a T, which leads us to lose some of our interpersonal skills. You might be great speaking with someone on the phone, you might even work in customer service, in which case all you do is talk to people, but it’s easy to forget that face-to-face communication may be difficult if you’re used to speaking to the same ten people by the water cooler about TV shows on the night before.
- Taking Over the Conversation
This was a hypothetical networking event, but let’s face it, any event we go to that has multiple people we have never met before has networking potential. As such, you certainly do not want people to think you are not interested in them. There are certainly things that you can do to insure that you’re not standing there, telling people about your job or pet for too long. When a person you’re speaking to gets bored they will begin to look around the room. They might ask to leave to refill their glass. Anything that shows a waning interest should give you a good clue that it might be time to switch topics. The easiest way to do so would be to say: “Has this ever happened to you?” If you really feel like the only reason you were still talking is because you’re trying to fill dead space, maybe it’s a good idea to walk over to another group with your discussion partner. This way, the person you are speaking to knows you are still interested in them but you have also picked up on their subtle clues. Instead of filling time with nothing, expand your network effectively.
2. Don’t forget to Circulate
This brings me to my next point. People attending a gathering, and this is the case with human psychology, tend to stick with a group that forms early into the evening. Humans get anxious around people they do not know and after getting through their anxiety once, might not want to do so again. Plus, why move onto something else if you are enjoying the conversation and the people in your standing circle? But again, you’re networking. Do not give people dirty looks as they attempt to enter your circle. Make sure you make people attempting to speak to you feel comfortable, like your collective is open to new ideas. It’s already much harder for one person to join a group because now not only are they worried about making one impression, they are worried everyone else in the circle might be judging them. Networking is nerve-racking enough, do not make it harder by creating a clique. If you notice that you keep creating circles around yourself, make sure you step away. If you do so repeatedly, congratulations! you are what they call “the life of the party,” and you should definitely be using your great people skills to their maximum potential.
Do not stand around complaining that you do not have a job or that the event is just too dull. You never know if your next employer is at the event. Also, as mentioned before, networking is not really about your personal preferences, it’s about socializing, having a good time and making connections. People might care if you prefer to live in New York vs New Jersey, but they certainly don’t care to know that you would have preferred not to spend money on a ticket that does not at least offer a free drink. Which brings me to my last point…
4. Do not Drink more than a glass or your best minimum.
You might be able to handle your liquor but how many people at this event know that? Honestly, when a person repeatedly go back to the bar and order more beers, a lot of questions arise. Is that person is not comfortable in their own skin? or Why are they wasting money like that (bar drinks are pricey) at an event for meeting people and holding discussions? It certainly will not put your best foot forward at an event that’s about presenting the best of what you have to offer to someone’s network.
What you should do is have fun, socialize, exchange business cards, follow up when you get home and of course, do not forget to Smile.