Smarter Ways To Network at a Party

While the September 15th article, The Best Ways to Network at Party,  in Wall Street Journal offered some good suggestions on body language when attending a party, some of the advice, characterizations and suggestions are not the best.  I also found other issues —that would have added value  and important “tips”—were not included.

As promised via Twitter, here is my  article based on How To Work a Room®, both the Silver Anniversary print edition and my presentations on the topic.

Define Terms Correctly

There is a difference between networking and “working a room”. The later is mingling or socializing —while exerting energy (the definition of work) and meeting, engaging, chatting with a variety of people at any event. The Mingling Mavens® disengage graciously.

Networking, on the other hand, is the on-going followup that turns a chance contact into a connection and, over time, into a relationship. Savvy Networkers do what they said they’ll do when they said they’ll do it.They send the article, email the URL, RSVP and show-up and they share ideas, leads, and information. They make introductions both in-person and online and with that, make things happen for the benefit of other people.

A Funny Thing about Body Language

Body Language is valuable as a tool to ‘get a feel’ for the people attending an event. We should also be mindful of our own body language and gestures.   However, it’s not a hard/fast science of indisputable facts. To paraphrase The Big Bang Theory’s “Sheldon Cooper”’s comment about geology: “Body Language is the Kardashians of science.”

For proof, listen to the authors and experts dissecting trials and current debates and you’ll hear a variety of contradictory analyses of the same gestures and body language.

Case in point: Don’t assume that — according to body language conjecture—when my arms are crossed in any room that I’m disinterested or unapproachable. All it means is that I’m cold!
Network Party Work Room Susan RoAne
Here are a few thoughts on how to make the make the most of your time at any event. They’re based on my my books How To Work a Room® and The Secrets of SAVVY Networking, for those of you who found the WSJ  article “wanting”.

It’s of primary importance to remember that, according to social science research about 90% of us self-identify as shy. And anywhere from 35-49% of the attendees at any party or gathering think of themselves as introverts. Whatever we can do to make people comfortable is not only a savvy “strategy” but also thoughtful and kind.

A Banquet of Bullet-Proof and Practical Tips

1. Do not attend a party to “network”.  How’s this for heresy: Go to have a good time!

2. There’s an  unwritten social contract that implies we’ve been invited to a party to celebrate an occasion, the honorees or a specific theme be it a retirement party, graduation party, Halloween party or wedding.

3. By accepting an invitation, we implicitly agree to be cordial, conversant, approachable, interesting, respectful and interested in other party-goers.

4. A business event that looks like a “party” is different so we have to rein in some of our personal party behaviors and watch what we do, say and consume. And that which we Snapchat or  Vine and post. The event is still business as long as our contacts and people  in our careers/jobs/businesses are in attendance.

5 People who are smiling ARE approachable.  Contrary to the article’s advice to “avoid the person with the 1000 watt smile”, that doesn’t mean he or she has a pocket full of biz cards to foist on you while giving sales pitches his wares.

6 Be sure to bring your business cards to a party because “you never know” who you’ll meet and want to followup with after the party. (Used napkins are unseemly).

7. Business cards follow a conversation; not supplant it.  Be sure to look at the business cards you’re handed. That will help you remember people.

Networking Party Working Room RoAne

8. If your company is high tech, doesn’t supply cards and expects you to add people to a database/ CRM, carry cards anyway.  Why?  If someone who may be a potential client or will refer you to others, wants a card, it’s wise to have one. That’s customization with a personal touch.

9.To be a good —and prepared —conversationalist, read a paper or content curator online or in print before any event. That way you’ll have a grasp of what’s going on in the profession, community, city, country and the world.

10. Come prepared with topics of interest so you’ll feel that you have something to share.

11. LISTEN! People tell you what they want to talk about.  Don’t plan your to-do or grocery list while others are talking.

“How Do I Leave a Conversation? 

That’s the question I’m always asked at my presentations , on radio and  in TV interviews. There are three basic ways to exit a conversation.

Here is one way:   Do this the next time you need to excuse yourself from a conversation:

1.  Interrupt yourself.
2.  Put out your hand for a closing handshake that signals the end to an exchange.
3. Say that it was fun, or interesting or eye-opening to talk to them about….. and fill in a phrase that summarizes and shows you were listening.
4. If you’d like a card, ask. “Do you have a card?”

After that, walk 1/4 of the room away to a person who’s alone or group.

OR better yet— bring the person with you to the next conversation with someone standing alone or a group.. You’ll have included that person and helped them expand their circle rather than excusing yourself from them.

The smart way to “network” is after the party.  How?  FOLLOW-UP consistently using email, linkedin, facebook, google plus, instagram and go “Old School” and pick up the phone!  Rinse and repeat.

Susan RoAne is a (legitimate) best-seller author (No. 1 Book of the Month Club, San Francisco Chronicle and Publishers Weekly to name a few), internationally recognized networking expert and The Mingling Maven®. She has advised and inspired audiences from West Point to Stanford University and numerous places in-between to ” work any room”, connect and build relationships.

About Susan RoAne

Susan RoAne leads a double life as a sought-after professional keynote speaker and a bestselling author. Known as The Mingling Maven®, she gives diverse audiences the required tools, techniques and strategies they need to connect and communicate in today’s global business world. The San Francisco Chronicle says she has a “dynamite sense of humor.” To hire Susan to speak for your company, association or college, 1.415.461.3915