Personal Finance

Genuine interest in people yields business dividends

diverse

Summary

  • Corporate-type professionals huddled in groups of three to five people seem engrossed in what looks like serious, excited, and fun conversations depending on whose facial expression you have a good view of.
  • None of them looks familiar and you’re wondering why you’re here rather than curled up on your couch, sipping your favourite beverage while clicking away to find yet another great movie on Netflix to watch.

You are at the entryway of the cocktail room at a high-end establishment. The event is already underway.

Corporate-type professionals huddled in groups of three to five people seem engrossed in what looks like serious, excited, and fun conversations depending on whose facial expression you have a good view of.

None of them looks familiar and you’re wondering why you’re here rather than curled up on your couch, sipping your favourite beverage while clicking away to find yet another great movie on Netflix to watch.

Hold it. You’re here because you know that you need to expand your circle of influence to grow your career. Take one step forward and another toward one of the groups. It doesn’t matter which one. Just go.

Square your shoulders, wear that friendly face you know you have. No, it’s not necessarily a toothy smile. Quicken your steps like you know the individuals in the group.

Those facing you do not recognise you but are now looking at you probably mid-sentence forcing the rest to follow their gaze. Now all five of them are looking at you as you approach. Relax. This is how you arrive — silently but with the right impact.

Now you can show a few teeth as you join them. Yes, they are perfect strangers. A quick “hello, is there room for one more among you?”

All of them are a little embarrassed about staring at you and quickly welcome you. A server carrying a platter of mouthwatering knick-knacks notices a new face and stops to tempt you. You’re hungry after beating the evening traffic but are not sure if you should help yourself. Go on, we do not let good food go to waste.

Daintily pick up tissue or toothpick and take a piece. One piece. From the corner of your eye, you can tell that some members of the group are wondering about you. That’s good. Some mystery about you and the confidence that you have to walk up to them creates the kind of intrigue that is helpful for you. In fact, you should order a drink.

As the server leaves to fetch it, apologise for the interruption and introduce yourself starting with an icebreaker that shows you specifically chose to join this group: “You all seemed engrossed in an interesting conversation that I couldn’t help wanting to be a part of. My name is A N Other”.

Fix your gaze on the person to your left as you say your name prompting him or her to acknowledge you and take your lead to introduce him/herself. Take in their names noting distinguishing features so you can remember them in conversation. Nod politely in the affirmative and work the group one person at a time. Keep going until you’ve heard all their names.

If your drink arrives before the introductions are over with, a quick thank you to the server and take a sip but do not take a bite of your knick-knack until normal conversation resumes. You don’t want to be asked a question while you’re chewing.

Yes, the normal conversation will resume soon enough, so do not worry about a little awkwardness before then. Please do not take out your freshly-printed business cards from a shiny metal box and start shoving them into everyone’s hands saying: “This is me”.You’re not a piece of the artboard with a shiny title printed on it.

No one cares or is impressed by that until you show real interest in them. Take a bite, get comfortable, intelligently chime into the banter. Now go ahead and strike a conversation with a person of interest to you when you can find an opportune moment.

Ask questions that make him/her share some knowledge, insight or experience with you and just have a great time connecting with another professional human being.

He/she is bound to ask about you, offer their contact information or ask for yours and so it goes. Rinse and repeat this process around the room making meaningful connections and turning perfect strangers into enthusiastic acquaintances.

They are called networking events but seasoned professionals do not go there to collect business cards. They attend them to work the room with confidence, charm, and an honest interest in people that translates into genuine lasting connections and business.