It’s that time of year again – office parties, client parties and a host of other social engagements. If you just want to go and chat to your friends, have a few drinks and blot them up with some canapés, don’t read on because you clearly know what to do!
If, on the other hand, you want to try to meet one or two new people socially, professionally or both, become more comfortable in joining already established groups, avoid getting stuck with that terminally boring person and leave the event with several people singing your praises, here are a few tips to help make it easier.
Think of this analogy. You don’t need to know the recipe of a cake to enjoy eating it. However, to bake it, you do. Similarly here. If you meet a nice person, you don’t have to be aware of what they’re doing to enjoy their company – as long as they’re authentic. However, if you know some top tips, they can help you avoid some of the things we all hate about networkers!
- Have a goal. As one senior lawyer once said to me, “Whenever I go to these events, I aim to meet three people I’ve not met before and then I go to the bar”. If you have a goal, you’re much more likely to benefit from the event.
- Be interested. Much better than trying to be interesting as this frequently equates to being boring and you dominating the conversation. Ask questions – open ones are generally better than closed ones and listen hard to the answer so you can use it as the mother of your next question.
- Balance of talking. Ask yourself who is talking more – you or the other person. If it is you, you have got it wrong. Be more interested and ask more questions.
- Be honest. If you want to join a group, say so. “May I join you?” is honest and even better, no one has ever said ‘No’ to me when I have asked that question. “Sorry to interrupt” is not honest because if you were sorry, you wouldn’t interrupt in the first place.
- Know your escape lines. Know what you’re going to say beforehand. Keep it short and say it with good eye contact and the chances are that both you and the other person will feel OK about it. What I say is along these lines, “Peter, it’s been good talking to you. There are a couple of people I want to catch up with so I am going to make a move. I hope you enjoy the rest of the evening.” Don’t use the loo, getting another drink, phone call etc. as excuses as people can see through them and, above all, don’t say it is time to catch your train and be caught chatting to someone else twenty minutes later. Don’t promise to catch up with them later if you have no intention of so doing and there’s no need to swap cards if you’re not interested.
- Remember to follow up. Do so within 48 hours and always ask yourself this question before you do. “If I were that person, what would make me welcome the follow-up?” Put another way, can they answer the “What’s in this for me?” question or is it all about you, the person doing the follow-up. If it’s about them, your chances of success are much greater.
So, enjoy chatting to your friends and follow these six tips to meet new people with whom you may want to develop future relationships.