My last post “Networking is BS” aka “Networking is malarkey” was a hit. My post was featured on the oh so fabulous social media pro, entrepreneur and author, Susan Avello’s site HR Virtual Cafe. As promised in that post I would give advice to being inclusive at networking events to, so here it is. My advice is based on what I have seen to be successful and what I know I want to see.
It was July last year when I started using Twitter for professional purposes and since that time have connected with many stellar HR, PR, SoMe Folks and more! ILSHRM was the first conference and networking event I attended after establishing connections via social media. I was able to meet several of the people I connected with via Twitter, in real-life (IRL). While it was exciting, I’m not going to lie many of the encounters were kind of socially awkward. I felt like a regular person meeting celebrities and they looked at me like “OMG, is she stalking me?!” And no I’m not stalking your completely public profiles and information that you share with the world. Anyway, of all the people I had met on social media first and then IRL Susan was the most sincere, open, friendly and genuinely engaging person I met at that conference.
Here’s how you too can be inclusive: This advice is for the seasoned professional that may get tied up in their “normal” behaviors and for the newbie that wants to know how to connect with others!
1.) Awareness: Be aware of your surroundings. While it’s important to be fully attentive while in conversation, make sure your blinders aren’t on. Notice passerby’s or people who are looking “lost”. You know the people I’m referring to, the ones walking around pretending to read the posted promotional materials and signage for the event. They are most likely just buying time. Take notice and invite them into the conversation, or excuse yourself from the conversation at the proper time and approach that person.
2.) Open circles: When speaking in a small group people have the tendency to gather in a closed circle style. To an outsider this says “Exclusive conversation happening here, no one else is welcome…move along“. The best way to counteract this perception is to make sure the circle doesn’t close. This is so easy to do because it really only takes the positioning of one person to open that circle. Create a space that allows outsiders to see they are welcome to join in the convo!
3.) Face Time: Eye contact, smile, greet! These are all the same skills we use when encountering anyone in the workplace and in life so do it here too! Your friendly demeanor will show others that you are approachable.
4.) I know you? I don’t remember but lets chat! If someone does approach you claiming to know you from somewhere and you don’t recall its ok to say “Ok I don’t remember. What’s your name? Nice to see you again!” Then show genuine interest in that person by asking thoughtful questions and really engage with that person.
The reality is not everyone will have a connection with everyone they speak to and that is completely natural and ok but that doesn’t mean we should deviate from common sense and social etiquette.