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Handling the most awkward networking moments – part 1

05 June 2019 Myra Knoesen

Years ago, Michael Goldberg, a speaker, author, consultant, boxer and networker, shared the spotlight on stage at an event with a woman called Jackie. He was very intimidated by Jackie because she was his former boss, very serious and a top executive of a hotel chain.

Pretty intimidating! To make matters worse, Jackie wore very large glasses that made her eyes appear huge. It made Michael feel like she was looking directly through him rather than at him. All the more intimidating.

That awkward moment

Well, they presented to the audience that morning. Jackie did her segment and Michael did his. He thought they presented themselves well but wasn’t sure if their messages worked together.

Over lunch, Michael was considering how to have this conversation with Jackie. Instead of sharing what was on his mind, he let her talk while he ate. And as she did, Michael bit down on a string bean and a stream of hot water shot right onto her eye glasses and dripped down into her soda.

Awkward moment! And for the first few moments, Michael pretended that it did not happen.

Through this awkwardness, her stare was cross-eyed focused on the water that was on her lens. Michael desperately held back the laughter and said, “You saw that, huh?” She said, “Yeah.”

Michael said, “OK, now what?”

Both of them burst out laughing. She took her eye glasses off to clean them as Michael got her a new soda.

Even after Michael returned with a new soda for her, he could not stop laughing. He never discussed his concerns from the morning. In fact, he forgot that he had concerns.

When they got back on stage in the afternoon, they were awesome.

The point… “When meeting, speaking and working with others, sometimes awkward moments present themselves. It’s almost always funny afterwards. At least it was to me,” said Goldberg.

Some suggestions

Here are some of the most common awkward networking moments Michael has experienced and some suggestions about how to handle them.

  1. How do I start a meaningful conversation? Introduce yourself and then say, “May I share a quick story?” Then share a story about something that recently happened to you. Don’t get too personal and don’t spend more than a minute or two with your story. Just be real. Then ask if they have had a similar experience. You may feel a connection after sharing stories. Then ask questions about their work, goals, connection to the meeting or event and what they’re looking to accomplish over the next 90 days. They may ask you similar questions, “How about yourself?” Now you’re having what the experts call a, “meaningful conversation.”
  2. How do I introduce others and gracefully walk away? After introducing those you meet to one another, give them the chance to talk about themselves. If it’s appropriate to stay there as they speak, then stick around. If not, let them know that you’re excited about connecting them and that you’re going to allow them to get to know one another. People love to be introduced to one another – especially if there is a good reason to do so. It’s a nice skill to master! In fact, the more introductions you make, the more introductions you’ll receive.
  3. What should I do if I forget someone’s name? Just ask! “I’m sorry; I forgot your name.” Be apologetic and self-effacing. Keep in mind that you probably didn’t “forget” their name. You simply weren’t listening to it because you were focused on the next thing you were going to say. To avoid that, repeat the person’s name back to them. If it’s a common name, like Tom, associate this person with someone you know named Tom. If it’s an unusual name, ask for the proper spelling and make sure you’re pronouncing it correctly. In fact, practice by using that person’s name when speaking with them. They will be appreciative that you’re looking to get their name correct. Keep in mind they have been dealing with having an unusual name their whole life, so make the experience they’re having with you a good one.

In part two, Michael shares more suggestions on how to avoid those awkward networking moments.

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