Networking is an imperative skill, not only if you want to hold down a job, but just for life in general. Being a naturally introverted person, speaking to strangers is particularly difficult for me. I have put a lot of effort into developing my skills in this area and can happily report that if I choose to do so, I can now chat up a storm in almost any situation (celebrities being the obvious exception to the rule).
I rely a lot on humour and this tactic usually works a charm. Nothing breaks that “we have literally nothing in common” awkwardness like a cheesy professional pick-up line like, “why are you here drinking free wine when you should be at your desk trying to undercut my pricing?” (I know – my ice-breakers are pretty amazing…).
A while ago I attended an industry event with a colleague. She introduced me to another attendee who she knew from a previous job. Pleasantries were exchanged and as the conversation flowed, the topic of industry perks came up – in particular a website where travel professionals could shop for industry discounts.
I remember my exact words clearly. “That website’s dodgy – it looks like it hasn’t been updated since the early 90’s. Who uses Times New Roman font anymore?”
I couldn’t understand, as the words were coming out of my mouth, why my colleague was giving me the panicked shifty-eye.
“Our company owns that website,” came the dry response from the person I had just met.
I managed to break the ensuing awkward silence with a goofy laugh followed by a “yes, well, a redesign might get you more traffic” followed by a mumbled comment about “being allowed out of my cage”. The show ended with a Moray-Eel-waiting-for-laughter-after-delivering-a-punch-line look as I looked for an escape.
This event is definitely marked as a “blip” in my otherwise pretty solid networking track record. Guess we can’t be the life of the industry function all the time.
I’m sure we’ve all had a similar cringe-worthy experience (please, tell me we’ve all have had a similar experience….). Post yours in the comments below.