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Handling the most awkward networking moments – part 2

05 June 2019

Years ago, Michael Goldberg, a speaker, author, consultant, boxer and networker, shared the spotlight on stage at an event with a woman called Jackie. Jackie did her segment and Michael did his. He thought they presented themselves well but wasn’t sure if their messages worked together.

After an awkward moment Michael says, “When meeting, speaking and working with others, sometimes awkward moments present themselves. It’s almost always funny afterwards. At least it was to me.”

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 ask for a business card? Offer to exchange business cards and explain why it would benefit both of you. Remember, networking is a we-thing, not a me-thing. Make your conversation collaborative and a benefit to both parties. “Does it make sense to exchange cards (or contact info)? We could set up some time to continue our conversation and explore ways of helping one other.” If you need to write something on someone’s business card, be polite and ask permission.
  2. How do I know when to end a conversation? Don’t monopolize the other person’s time. Most networking conversations are usually six to eight minutes (without looking at your watch or phone). If there is not a good connection with the other person, keep your conversation on the shorter side – just a couple of minutes. But if you feel a good connection, try to keep the conversation in the eight-minute range unless it’s appropriate for you to have a longer discussion. If you’re not sure, simply ask. “I’m enjoying our conversation, but I don’t want to hold you up either. Are you alright if we spend a few more minutes chatting?” Remember, this is only if you feel you have a good connection. Again, the conversation should be collaborative – focused on helping and referring one another – not selling that person your product or service. If you don’t feel you have a great connection and there is no reason to continue speaking to each other, simply say, “Nice to meet you today. Let me know if there is anything I can do to help you, otherwise I’ll see you again soon. Good luck!”
  3. What can I do if I’ve done something embarrassing or stupid? As Lieutenant Dan said in the movie Forrest Gump, “Two standing orders in this platoon. One, take good care of your feet. Two, try not to do anything stupid, like getting yourself killed.” Or by saying something stupid that will make the situation awkward. An apology will handle most mistakes – unless it’s disrespectful or mean-spirited. Discussions about income, politics or charged positions you have about anything that is going to create a conflict should be avoided. The goal when meeting others at an event is to make a good impression and begin a meaningful business relationship – not prove how smart or successful you are.
  4. What if I’m speaking with someone and someone else interrupts us? It depends. If you know you can circle back with the person you were speaking with later, say goodbye and mention that you will find them later. Another approach might be to mention to the person who interrupted that you’re wrapping up your conversation soon and ask that they give you a few minutes to finish. This will let them know that they are interrupting without creating a conflict or awkward moment.
  5. What if we just don’t click? You won’t click with everyone. In fact, if you’re a good networker and have a nice conversational way about you, you’ll probably connect with about one third of those you meet. And by connection, I mean there’s interesting conversation to be had, the conversation is effortless and you’re having fun. Just keep the conversation short and sweet. If you’re not “feeling the love,” just say, “Nice to meet you.” Offer to be a resource at the event and move on.

Just take good care of your feet and don’t do anything stupid.

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