Thursday, August 14, 2008

Avoiding People Traps at Networking Events

Do you ever find yourself trapped in a dead, unproductive conversation when attending a business event? I know I do at almost every event. Tonight, for instance, I attended a networking mixer hosted by the local venture capital association. Midway through the event I found myself talking to a residential real estate agent . . . . What? Yes! How did he get in here? The worst part was that he didn't really talk -- he would just stand and stare at me as if I was supposed to be holding the conversation together. Thankfully I was able to slip away. And you can too if you use one of these four tried, true and polite techniques:
  • Have an ally at the event that, on signal, can drop into the conversation and state, "I hope it's OK to steal Bruce away but there is someone I need to introduce him to."
  • Be politely blunt by stating, "It was most interesting to meet you. I hope the evening goes well for you. I am going to dive back into the crowd for more networking."
  • Locate someone else nearby that appears to be alone, bring them into the conversation, and once they are focused on each other excuse yourself. "I see someone I need to talk with... It was very nice to meet you and good luck to you both."
  • If the person you are talking to is not a good connection for you, but may be for someone else in attendance, walk him/her to an introduction and then politely excuse yourself.
It is always my advise to never make THE mistake of saying, "I'll give you a call". Too often it is commitment you will never keep.

The whole idea of attending business events is to make productive connections. Be a savvy networker and never waste your or their time.