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Networking scenario … has this happened to you?

“I can’t help you here; sorry”

When asked a question about networking I am pleased to admit it is rare when I don’t know the answer. But recently I was posed this scenario.

A young lady representing a powerful networking club decided to attend an event to listen to a topic she was particularly interested in.

Understanding that it is never all about the presentation she got there early to network.

Oh dear, how sorry she was. “I was the only woman in the room and approximately 20 years younger than all the men. I took a deep breath and tried to engage.

None (yes she said none), of them wanted to talk to me, most of them knew each other (in the engineering field) and just wanted to talk business.

I tried 3 to 4 times but each time was rejected. I retreated to the ladies to return just before the talk. Needless to say I zipped off quickly after the talk”

What could I have done differently?” she asked me.

I was stumped for an answer.

Can anyone advise?

Anything good to come from this I asked her. “Yes it’s a great talk.”

1 thought on “Networking scenario … has this happened to you?”

  1. Will – I really admire your contributions to networking skills: so helpful, and so insightful! (And I really don’t belive you didn’t klnow how to respond? But thanks for tthe opportunity to let me add my pennyworth!)

    My first take on this particular dilemma was that it seems she attended the wrong event? But we often have to find out only after the experience. The secret may only be to learn from this. (We don’t know why this person chose to attend or what her primary interests were other than ‘networking’, buit if it really didn’t work, don’t go back!)

    But I can’t help but feel she might still have rescued a little more from this experience? I think it is a situation we might all recognise in different guises. (I shall never forget going to at least two high-level techie events like this as a new graduate and being completely out of my depth. I felt all I could do was to listen. I know now how wrong I was. I met quite a few of the delegates much later on in my career and I could only hope they didn’t remember me for my ‘grey shaddow’ as well as I remembered them!)

    So even if this event was solely for a ‘closed network’ of experts in a very particular field she couldn’t hope to contribute to, what at least I would dearly have wished that I had done differentlty in her position (and in perfect 20:20 retrospect!) would have been:
    – look for singletons, open pairs and new arrivals, and just offer a neutral and even diffident hello.
    Eg: “Hello, I am completely new here. How do you do? My name is X.” (Wait for the other to respond with their name – YZ.) “How on earth did you find anywhere to park, Y? / “Where have you come from, Y?” / “Wasn’t the A999 awful today?” “It was really sunny/frosty/raining when I left ABC – how was it for you?” Etc.
    Then: “Can I ask you what draws you to this event, Y?” / “What are you most looking forward to?” “Oh how interesting! What do you do?” – etc. (These need to be genuine questions of course – with relevant prepared answers to the same questions that only comnmon courtesy demands in return, that are a genuinely conversational and not an inquiisition.)
    And then perhaps, “I’d love to talk to you some more, Y. Shall we get a coffee?” Or “Who do you know here Y? Is there anyone you’d like to introduce me to?” Or, if really no spark of interest: “I do hope you have a really interesting meeting Y. I must circulate. But how nice to meet you!”
    – Aind then, I would at least want to talk to my neighbours, whether queuing for coffee, sitting next to me in a session, going for lunch, all in the same way. Just as you may counsel Will!
    I don’t think that until we have done all that, we can really label any networking event as a compltee ‘no-hoper’?

    More generally, I think a lot of this is a cultural problem, that requires deep cultural sensitivity. (I worked for some years in N America, where there may be no shame in starting a conversation with : “Hi! My name is Jo Bloe, Assistant Executive Technical Liason Officer for Better Widgets Inc, the best goldarn widgets in the world!. How are you doing?” But that’s not how many others work elsewhere, and we need to encourgae them!

    So I have long-ago leaned to start all my new conversations in any community in the UK, whether at work, in the local Pub, at Church, in the village Post Office, or wherever professionally, by making the ‘Initial Leap of a warm Hello’, whenever it seems possibly appropriate – knowing that if I don’t, others most probably won’t either! Even closed groups find that hard to ignore – believe me? If none respond – it was probably the wrong group. But it costs nothkng to find out, other than your time!

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