Keep the Egg Salad Out of Your Fingers: A Guide To Networking Events
By Dee Currie
A few weeks ago, the Junior League Edmonton training committee did a presentation on networking. Here is what you missed and tips on tackling your next networking event. The key points around a networking event are similar to those in other public settings: approach with confidence, know your stuff, but don’t creep people out.
Don’t go in Cold:
Do research on people you know who will be there so you can start a conversation around interests they may have.
Looking at their LinkedIn and Facebook could give you clues i.e. do they have beer, kids or dogs in their profile pics. Clearly, you don’t want to make it obvious that you researched them, so saying, “I see you enjoy hanging out at Hudson’s and taking selfies on Fridays,” might become awkward. You can try, “Have you ever been to Hudson’s on Fridays, it is so fun?” (Although I may question your event if there are many people there who take selfies at Hudson’s.) Really, this just helps you start a conversation around something the other person enjoys, and it will grab their immediate attention.
Simply introduce yourself:
Make eye contact with a warm smile, then proceed with a confident: “Hi, I am First and Last Name,” and offer your hand to shake theirs. Eye contact is tricky, you don’t want it to feel like a shark attack while you stare intensely at your next potential contact.
You just want to give them a heads up that, “Here I come to join your conversation and meet you.”
If groups are intimidating, start with someone else who is standing alone. Approach a solo person with, “Have you tried the tuna salad?” However, don’t really start with tuna unless you know it’s an interest of theirs (from your Facebook creep, or I guess we called it “research”). Just a simple “How’d you like the speaker?” will do. Also, don’t be scared to compliment people on something you genuinely like, “Nice necklace, is that Stella and Dot?” Just don’t do it if you hate the necklace, you don’t want to be perceived as being unauthentic.
Remember their name:
Ugh, names. Don’t try something like, “Hey girl is your name Grace? ….Because you are amazing.” Although you’ll likely be able to remember their name that way, they’ll remember you as well, but for all the wrong reasons. Try repeating their name until it sticks. Repetition can come off as fake so try to be authentic. There are other tricks like spelling it in your head (which only works if you can spell) and visualizing it on their forehead. That just seems strange and distracting to me, but hey, find something that works for you. But if you forget, just be honest and tell them. It’s not that uncommon.
Keep good posture and a smile. Try not to stand alone in the corner or park yourself by the food. Always be ready to shake hands by holding your food in your left hand. No one wants to see you wipe egg salad off your fingers before you go in for the handshake.
Leave the conversation:
Wait for a lull in the conversation. You don’t want to cut them off mid-sentence, but if you can feel the end, just politely say, “it’s been great getting to know you, but I need to refresh my drink.” Don’t feel like you need to over explain yourself. “I need to go because I need to wash the kids, walk the dog, feed the husband, finish a paper, online shop and practice yoga before sundown,” is overkill. A simple “please excuse me” will do. Most people will just think you need the washroom anyway.
You can also just throw a colleague into the mix if you want. “This is Tom, he also loves cat videos,” and make your exit.
Quick Fire Tips:
- Be intentional, concise and lose the jargon. When someone asks what you do, don’t answer with, “Well I’m everything from the chef to the bottle washer.” No one knows what that means, and more importantly, they likely won’t care.
- Don’t monopolize key people’s time. Why? Because it’s annoying and everyone else will dislike you.
- Make sure to say thank you to the people who did give you their time or contacts. Appreciation goes a long way.
- Fulfill any promises you make, and follow up within a few days of making new contacts.
- Know the dress code. Don’t show up to a ball in sweat pants.
So there you have it! All of these things are pretty common knowledge. You want to know your audience, be pleasant and know why you’re there. If you don’t know the answer to those questions, then just go home.