Networking in a formal setting

Sometimes, you will have the occasion to network at gatherings, such as cocktail parties and conventions. Here are some strategies for breaking the ice while not seeming too aggressive:

  • Don’t worry about having something clever to say. Successful networkers do not waste their time trying to think of the “perfect” opening line. Instead, they approach potential contacts by making a simple comment to establish common ground. They use small talk to pave the way to more important topics.

  • …Handling crowds: If you want to approach someone talking with a group of people, but not seem like you’re barging in on the conversation, consider saying something like: “May I join you, or is this a private conversation?” Most likely, you will be welcomed into the group.

  • Help people to remember your name. Studies show that people usually forget names within thirty seconds of hearing them for the first time. Always introduce yourself by name as soon as you meet someone, but assume he or she won’t remember your name. After you’ve talked for a few minutes, remind the person of your name. This saves him or her the embarrassment of asking for your name again. It also increases the chances that he or she will remember it.

  • Spend at least five minutes with everyone you meet. This is usually enough time to establish connectivity without seeming too rushed. If the other person starts glancing around the room or fidgeting, you should take this as your cue to move on.

  • Spend 80% of the time listening. The best way to show new acquaintances you’re interested in what they have to say is to pay close attention to them. 

  • Keep your business cards in a pocket. That way, you won’t have to waste valuable time looking for your cards when you only have a few minutes to chat with someone.

  • Depart gracefully. In most situations, it is acceptable to ask if the person will excuse you because you see someone you need to speak to. However, if you’re speaking to someone with higher seniority at a business event, use an exit line complementary to his or her status. For example, “I don’t want to monopolize your time. I know there are a lot of people here who want to speak with you.”