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The awkwardness of networking

By: Holly O'Donnell, Slone Solutions, LLC | Aug 7, 2019

Networking_ODonnellWe thrive on social interaction. Research proves it enhances mood, brain development, and can decrease blood pressure among a plethora of other health benefits. Studies indicate social interaction is necessary for business development. Networking. Making memberships to chambers, support groups, private clubs and trade associations a necessity to thrive in business. Social interaction may decrease blood pressure, but the anxiety of finding common ground during a 30-second elevator pitch can trigger nervous knots for any professional attending the initial networking function.

When attending networking events, the end game is to schmooze; build awareness of services, develop clientele, sell, yet our basic human need to be social becomes awkward and clumsy during networking gatherings. If you sit back and observe interactions, it’s quite comical.

One enters an event, registers, and emerges into a sea of unfamiliar faces. We glance the room like the Terminator. 

Subject identified.

Subject unknown.

Continue scanning. 

We are on a quest for the familiar, drawn to the individual most like us and hopeful for connection; to fit in. We ask ourselves, “Will they like me?”  We are hopeful for a bond, an internal dialogue commences preventing name retention or introduction recollection from the people we meet. We “engage” in conversation, with head angled to show interest yet position our bodies outward, our eyes scanning for the next connection; sending a subliminal message that we aren’t fully committed to the conversation. Thought bubbles floating over heads would read:

“Please, please join this conversation. Help me.”

“Not connecting here.” 

“Awkward.”

“Why did I come?”

After years of consulting, observing, and discovering the challenges we all experience when networking, (because everyone finds it awkward – we just don’t talk about it), I found success when connecting to a personal element. Only talking about business can turn a conversation stale. Shouldn’t networking be about connecting? So, I ask where people live, if it’s their first time at the event, what they like about the association, how crazy is this weather. I try to learn personal things because it helps me remember the individual. When we connect with people on an emotional level, we are remembered. Eventually people do business with people they trust.

Consider how we communicate with friends and family. The very things we talk about are the experiences that contained an emotion to it. You were happy, sad, frustrated or irritated. The emotional element made the experience memorable. We don’t mention the random drive-thru experience at Starbucks unless something poignant happened when there. It’s the same for us when networking.

So, the next time you head to a networking event and you feel anxiety or nervous knots building in your belly, focus outward. Focus on the other person. Focus on the personal questions. Try:  

“How’s your week going?” “First time here?” “Will this winter never end?” “Whadija have for lunch?” “Did you see the game last night?” 

Go forth and network!

Read the full blog and other posts at www.slonesolutionsllc.com.

About the author: Holly O’Donnell is owner and founder of Slone Solutions, LLC. A client engagement specialist, she is an international keynote speaker, blogger and consultant. She brings 20 years of hospitality expertise and retail consulting to businesses dedicated to differentiating the client experience through process improvement and culture change. A published author and contributor on LinkedIn, she has a passion for helping others find confidence in communication while enhancing the client experience. Most recently she’s helped build the in-dealership luxury brand experience for the Lincoln Motor Company resulting in a No. 1 Client Satisfaction ranking by JD Power & Associates.

 

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Holly O'Donnell, Slone Solutions, LLC
Slone Solutions, LLC

 
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