Monday, July 26, 2010

How to Network at Social Events

It’s a beautiful summer evening full of pasta salads, watermelon and people sharing a summer repast. You are in the unenviable position of trying to decide whether to join the softball game or one of many conversations under the shade of the trees.

Networking can take place just as easily around a picnic table, golf course, coffee shop or conference room table, just as easily as it can take place anywhere else as long as you are aware that every networking occasion requires a different approach.

The single and most important thread that is common regardless of the networking situation is an ability to build a rapport with those you meet. Everyone needs to know how to have a good conversation.

Why not do both? Starting a conversation is just as easy while sipping an ice-cold beverage under a tree as it is during a casual sporting event. The timing may be different, but the methodology is still the same.

Here are some tips on how to network at social events:

  • The easiest way to start a conversation is to ask a question. Safe topics of conversations can include food, weather, music, vacation plans/destination, books, movies and television. Topics of conversation that are generally risky include sex, politics and religion.

  • Have a good clean joke ready. Nothing brings people together more than laughter.

  • Interruptions abound at social events, so be gracious.

  • Know when to move on. A good exit strategy is also important. When you believe that your conversation is nearing the end, you can say something like, “I’ve enjoyed our conversation. I’m sure there are a lot of other people who want to talk to you.”

  • Bring your résumé cards with you. Résumé cards are micro mini versions of your résumé.

  • Keep a pen and small pad of paper with you at all times. You never know when you will need to jot down a name, number or other critical information.

  • Don't forget to follow-up on conversations

The critical information on them includes your contact information and perhaps some career-related highlights in bullet form on the back.

Always remember that this is a social event, and that general background noise is a perfect cover for someone to ‘accidentally’ listen in on your conversation, so be very cognizant of what information you are choosing to share with whom. This point is especially critically because those who are doing the eavesdropping may not be privy to the entire conversation and could very easily misinterpret the conversation entirely.

“Career Matters” is an on-line community blog hosted by Mary Salvino. It is designed for those who are seeking advice on managing their career and future job opportunities. We welcome readers to share their experiences, post their comments or ask questions about career related matters. Alternatively, you can e-mail Mary directly at