Learning to network

Im at an ideal place to network.

This whole networking thing is high on my “to learn” list for this year. I suck at networking and I shouldnt; so its a big todo! Sadly; the road to anything is filled with frustrations and you cant always live tweet that; so lets just put it here and publish it when there is enough meat to it πŸ™‚ (aka in about a week after starting this post!) I seem to be a bit shy in certain professional situations; this is a new realization to me, I dont really have that in my social life. Though maybe I do have that there to some degree .. Though Im pretty certain most people that know me wouldn’t exactly call me shy. I’ll work on figuring that out next.
Also; I believe (taking a note from the games industry) setting goals (achievements) and being able to claim them for yourself will motivate me to actually DO stuff! “Writing a blog post” achievement unlocked!

The first day
Walking dinner networking thing. I didnt know anyone and walked around the thing a bit, looking around. I set a “Meeting 5 People” goal.
* The first guy I introduced myself to was standing by a table and I joined him with my walking dinner plate. I said “Hi, my name is Gert” and made an apologetic gesture for not shaking his hand because I was holding food and there was sauce on my fingers. I then ate the piece I was holding. The guy never said anything, just looked uneasy and left!
* The second guy I walked up to kinda saw that I was walking up to him and turned away when I stopped next to him; then left.
* The third guy actually talked to me and while that might have gone better on my part; I dont think it was that bad. Then again, that was him networking; not me.

The Verdict: Fail.

But there are obviously things to be learned.
* I was dressed business casual; the first guy I talked to was utterly the opposite and very modded. I have to admit that I chose him because he is within my regular social sphere. I presume my clothes will have told him that I was not within his sphere. No reason to react as he did but still.
* Make sure you CAN shake hands; the physical contact establishes more of a connection. Keep the right hand free of food and junk you cant transfer to the left hand when necessary. This is very practical and stoopid but I felt it would have made a difference
* Don’t expect the other guy to make conversation, offer some topic yourself instead. This does leave the classic problem akin to the “pick-up line” dilemma. I think the big thing here is that you dont actually need any big or smart lines, just anything that you can have a 3-reply conversation (question – answer – follow up – answer) on to get things started.. I think.
* I think the second guy pegged me as someone that he wouldnt be interested in talking to. This could be for any number of reasons, ranging from age to “social status” (for lack of a better word) to “he just needed to go for a shit” ..

And now to reiterate some of the PUA wisdom ..
* Dress like the social class you want to belong to; people will be interested if you are dressed within the class they belong to or are interested in exploring.
* Open with a conversation starter question
* Enter a group with equal or slightly higher energy
* Be interesting / entertaining (language barriers are a problem to overcome here)

On to the next day!

The second day
A day with many seminars; coffee breaks; lunch and a dinner in the evening. AKA many opportunities for expanding the social circle.
Unlock-able achievements: Meet 3 people (of different social groups, a group of 2 or more counts as one); Talk to at least 75% of the people at the dinner; Remember the names of the people you met.

* Partial update: meeting people challenge failed; there were other priorities and problems to solve. This is ok.
* Dinner was a success but I had to leave early. Met good people though!

Achievements proved impossible! Meet 3 ppl would ve gotten unlocked though πŸ™‚

The third day
Exams, Lunch and Dinner party. Unique opportunities to meet people..

Updating long after the facts. I didnt set achievements, a pity but they are not a goal on themselves.. I met several people. Chatted up people at the exams though mostly people in the periphery of those that I already knew.
The party was fun, I talked and met several new people, English IBM people; a wad of very nice South Africans; .. Just sitting with people to eat does wonders; or just talking to them over beer or whatever..
A successful night.

The Fourth Day
Talks; Coffee breaks; Leaving for home, Probably lots of waiting. Relatively easy and important opportunities!

I didnt set achievements either today.
Talked to some of the people I met the night before and said my goodbyes.
I finally met the entire Belgian delegation; about time, its incredible how I managed to not meet them earlier though most of them were non-techies; sales or jBoss people. None the less, I met very interesting people!
Interesting new acquaintances.

So, networking.
I learnt a lot about myself and probably simply about the nature of people over this experiment.
Great strides after the second day and what I said after the first day remains very valuable. Be entertaining, start the conversation, dress accordingly and maintain correct energy levels.

Verdict: a very calm start and in the end reasonably successful.

Published by Gert

Person-at-large.

4 thoughts on “Learning to network

  1. I’m a bit surprised at this, since you are one of the people I would peg as pretty social. I have always found you easy to talk to, and could not help but notice you have an extensive circle of friends. I wonder why this should be different in a business setting.
    Although to be fair, in your profession one is perhaps more likely to encounter socially awkward people, and hence while you may feel like networking, _others_ may be too shy for it to work :-).
    Some tips, free of charge :p : 1) people like nothing more than the sound of their own name, so once you know their name, use it. 2) Touching: yes – bodily contact establishes a bond, just make sure it cannot be interpreted as obtrusive.

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  2. It’s what we Italians have been doing for centuries! Eating, touching and shouting eachother’s names REALLY LOUD!

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    1. Its not just about meeting one person and sticking with that group for the period; its about meeting MOST of the people and having a positive experience with most of them πŸ™‚

      The tips: 1. I heard thats actually great for mnemonic reasons. Personally it upsets me when people do it though I will try to do it none the less. 2. I dont touch people. But I do realize this and will indeed work on that πŸ˜‰ 3. yes. though that mostly works for me simply because you get a lot of chances to connect simply because you’re all stuck there for a while, facing eachother πŸ™‚
      Good advice; tnx!

      The Italian Way also means drinking lots & lots of espresso (in places that spell it expresso for most people elsewhere in the world) right before sleeping. Which is EXACTLY what I was trying to do when the prick at the hotel told me the bar was closed and he was only there for providing room service. I had already met the guys in there though, so I guess that was no problem anyway πŸ˜€

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