Networking Event Survival Tips
Part 1: How to Escape a Black Hole Networking Event Conversation
So we’ve all been there, right? You’re at a networking event, and someone corners you. You’re trying to find an escape hatch, but can’t get a word in edgewise. What you WANT to do is look at your watch and say, “Oh, look at the time! I stopped wanting to talk to you 20 MINUTES AGO.”
But, unfortunately you’re trying to be polite and professional.
How do you exit those black hole conversations while keeping the networking contact relationship intact? Here are some pro tip excuses:
- Oh, it’s XYZ! I need to hop over to chat with that speaker really quickly, I had a question during his/her session and didn’t get a chance to ask it! Can I get your Twitter handle so we can continue chatting later?
- Oh my gosh is that XYZ?! I’m a huge fan! Please excuse me, I need to go introduce myself really quickly or I’ll totally regret it. I def want to continue this convo later, what’s your Twitter handle so we can pick back up where we left off?
- You’re so knowledgeable on this subject, have you considered writing an article about it? If you do I’d love to read it! What’s your social handle, so I can follow up with you after the event to discuss this some more?
- Man, I need to ghost, the alcohol is starting to catch up with me, but I’d love to continue chatting about this later. Do you have a card?
These may seem lame, but they’re surprisingly effective!
Part 2: An Introverts Guide to Surviving a Networking Event
Then there is the flip side. You hate large social events and feel awkward.
I’m 100% one of these people. I’m mega outgoing and friendly in small groups/one on one. And I can jump on a stage in front of 500 people and feel completely comfortable. But if you put me in a room full of strangers, I used to go hide in the corner with a vodkatini.
That is, until I attended an amazing conference session a few years ago. The speaker gave the best advice I had EVER heard on how to survive networking events as an introvert.
He said, “Look around the room and find a person who looks as uncomfortable as you feel, and go talk to them.”
Then someone asked, “But what if they don’t want to talk to anyone? I don’t want to seem like a weirdo.”
The speaker responded, “Would you think that person was a weirdo if they came over and saved you from feeling awkward? I’m going with no. What’s the worst thing that could happen? They could make an excuse to go chat with someone else. Will your life be over? No. You don’t even know this person. A majority of the times I’ve tried this method, the person has been grateful that I’ve rescued them. Trust me, this works.”
Best. Advice. Ever.
From that point forward, I have been able to navigate huge events like a champ, without feeling like a total noob. And the best part? The people who look as uncomfortable as I feel really ARE grateful when I approach them. I’ve wound up making some of the most lasting professional relationships I’ve ever had with those folks.
Networking events are tricky, but not impossible. If you give these hacks a try at your next networking event, I’d love to hear how things go! Hit me up on Twitter at @jma245.