Networking at corporate events can be a nightmare to prepare for. The idea of socialising with a bunch of professional strangers in the hope of finding common ground and creating a new contact in the industry is daunting. It’s a lot like a lucky packet of sorts…in one given room at any given time you never know who you are going to get. Are you going to land a conversation with, The Harvey Spector, The Lous Litt, or The Mike Ross,? Here is how I would ultimately handle each of the above;
The Harvey Spector
How to spot him/her – Appearance FIRST. They are the well groomed, expensive wearing, posture baring light that you will spot immediately as you enter the room. They are the jocks of the team. Everyone who is anyone WANTS to be around them. They are usually engaging in hearty conversation at all times, drink in hand, hand in pocket, confidence in Check. They make eye contact, lots of it, but sometimes not even enough as you would hope. Their confidence doesn’t just limit to what they DO, it extends to WHO they are. They know everything there is to know about everything…they like a challenge but they hate losing. You sense this in their tone of voice and pattern of narration. It’s very opinion based conversation, lots of room for opinion and controversy but not enough room for YOUR point to be heard. If your opinion does not match, then you don’t matter.
How to handle him/her – Keep the conversation Fact based. Indulge in conversation that avoids the intent of controversy…it’s likely that you will either lose or you will win it and lose an invaluable contact in the industry/company. No need to dumb yourself down now, speak about things that you have an excess knowledge of, seemingly relevant to their field of work. Don’t seek to advise him/her. This is their playground, they will not want to part with any words of wisdom. Instead, compliment their style-observe their suit, compliment their taste in drinks – observe their beverage in hand, compliment their taste in music – observe their tapping feet to the sound of the melody that plays in the backdrop. to the Jock, a way to his heart is through his/her ego!
The Lous Litt :
How to spot him/ her – this is the “seemingly” less attractive one making an extra effort to mingle and socialise. He is a lot less stealthy in his approach or reproach. An act of over compensation is evident. He has an uncomfortable sort of air about himself than differs from the Harvey Spector. It’s an almost insecurity about him. Fidgety and stumbling around. Greeting out of turn, being rude…trying to hard. TRYING!! In shallow conversation he is the overly pedantic, jealous to the point of paranoia, highly suspicious, snobbish, and an almost cruel guy who compensates his inscurity with the ideals of Hierachy. In deeper conversation he highly values loyalty and puts it at the fore front of who he is. He thrives on respect around him.
How to handle him/her – Seek advice. They will jump at the chance to offer it. They are leaders and they love being leaders. The fact that you could seek advice from them shows that you are willing to learn and more importantly that you could possibly possess a sense of loyalty.
The Mike Ross :
How to spot him/her – this is the quieter than usual yet playful one. He is the naive emotional one who says too much too soon. Can’t put a lid on it perhaps. He is the easy to speak to, always smiling one that will offer to get you a drink or keep you company just because you are standing alone.
How to handle him/her – You don’t. No need for any sort of handeling here. They aren’t complex characters that require gloves. be yourself, they will appreciate you more for it.
If you’re getting a lot of people looking around for an escape when you introduce yourself, you might be falling into one of the insecurity traps associated with meeting strangers. Here are a few traps to watch out for.
- Don’t brag. “I’m the youngest VP of the largest company in SA …Here’s my business card.”
- Don’t humble-brag. “You have two kids? And no help? I don’t know how I could raise my three without my nannies.”
- Don’t name-drop. “Oh really? You just started as an HR clerk at Vodacom? Then you must know Anna. She’s the VP of Supply Chain for Vodacom Corporate. I think she reports directly to Bill Simon, Vodacoms CEO. We’re great friends.”
- Don’t complain. “Yeah, these conferences are OK, but the food is terrible. I wish we could get better sandwiches, after all, we’ll never eat again and we couldn’t possibly bring our own or go off campus. Let’s whine about the chips together.”
You look insecure and weak when you show that you feel you must establish dominance through status, people you know, or criticism something you didn’t create. You may think you’re playing it off, but you’re not. Nobody is impressed, and you just made them either judge themselves for not being such a rock star or judge you for showing your insecure side.
You want both parties to walk away from the conversation feeling good. The best conversationalists are secure enough to make the conversation mostly about the other person and are gracious and supportive.
No one is saying you need to be something you are not at these events, It’s just a matter of how much you reveal of yourself at the right times ????