If you need to find an excuse to hand one over, you've wasted money and materials. The person on the receiving end hasn't demonstrated that they want one, and you have demonstrated to them that you don't value them.
> I’m sorry, I just got 500 business cards made and I’ll feel like such an idiot if I don’t give at least one of them out at this party.
> I’m dying to get new cards made but I will feel like such a tree-destroyer if I don’t get rid of these first—have one!
None of those sound like either fun or honest "excuses"
If I'm introduced to you, and we talk for half an hour, I will not recognize you an hour later. If you remind me who you are, then of course I'll remember the conversation and your name and everything, but I just have zero visual memory of people.
This is even to the extent that my wife once sat down next to me on the train (we didn't usually make the same train), and I spent the entire trip thinking "I think I know this woman from somewhere, maybe?" before she finally couldn't hold it in any more and told me who she was.
(Yes, I score in the bottom 5% of prosopagnosia tests.)
While we werr hanging out I slowly realized that there were actually two completely different people (with vaguely similar appearance and life experience)-- When I struck uo a chat with the second woman and got invited back to her dormitory, I was actually talking to a stranger with a level of confidence I had when talking to actual strangers.
If I could somehow replicate this tactic intentionally, I would have been much more successful getting dates at school and in the world. But alas, it was UST beginner's luck (and the charged atmosphere of first week of college, when many people are scrambling to make new friends and romantic partners to replace high school social circle)
I find it particularly awkward when it is obvious someone recognises or remembers me as there is little to no chance I'll recognise them.
I ran my local poker club for a year or two and there were people who came every week and I had to ask their names every time.
Prosapagnosia really sucks, I sometimes wonder how much my social awkwardness is actually from that trait rather than aspeger's.
I'd welcome a good guide on how to network without being "creepy" but sadly TFA was not good advice, it washed over how to initiate conversation with "just do it", useless advice.
I avoid slighting people by letting them know up front that I'm terrible with names. But I think it helps that mildly-poor name recall is common enough that people can empathize and excuse it. Also, I can quickly recognize and greet people I know--even if I can't acknowledge them by name. I'd imagine that most would find the effects of prosopagnosia more jarring and harder to dismiss without much more explanation than my bad name memory requires.
It's sort of like ... imagine everyone but you can see color, and they ask you to hand them the green crayon, and you have to go through ALL THE CRAYONS looking at the text on the wrapper.
The number one issue at these events (or at least the geeky ones I go to) is everyone sticks like glue to the people they already know. Safety in numbers and all that. The article only briefly touches on getting into conversations (in "Go to the party alone") so a few things that work for me:
- Getting talking to a big group is hard; it's easier with singles or couples.
- The drinks or food line is a chance to get talking to people when they've peeled off from their group. Chat to the person behind you (it is easier to initiate eye contact). If the conversation is promising and it's an open bar, ask them what they're getting when you place their order. Saves them a bit of time and keeps the conversation going.
- People standing around a table? Say "excuse me", put your drink/food down on the table, and start a conversation. Leading with something about said food/drink is the obvious way to start.
Yes, food and drink are really handy props!
Put down the food and drink (it just looks like you're clinging to a safety blanket). Try talking to a huge group out of nowhere and find someone whose body language says they actually want to talk to you. And try not to talk about obvious things as small talk. ("The crab dip is amazing, isn't it?" "Yeah, it is!" Now where's the conversation going to go? Nowhere.)
The specific instance I was thinking of regarding food was a conference I was at recently. It was actually two conferences held back-to-back, and I was attending both. At the first one the snacks were fruit smoothies, fruit skewers and the like. At the second it was chocolate bars. So during the second conference I grabbed something, then made a comment about the different food and what that implied about the different audiences, and that led into a conversation with a group of three people, exchange of cards, and some follow-up emails since. So yeah, it helps to have something interesting to say about the food, but it's still a convenient way to get talking. And people are at these events to talk to other people, so it doesn't take much to get started. Similarly, if someone says "nice crab dip" to you, rather than shutting down the conversation with a "yeah", it behooves you to open it up some random personal detail ("yeah, I don't normally eat crab back in <home town>", "it reminds of the time I visited <random seaside place>", etc.)
As for "seeming creepy":
Whatever, man. One goes to networking events to talk to people. If you have a problem with people talking to you at a point in time and your social skills are so low you can't you make that obvious, don't go to these events. The other side of the coin is you don't glom onto people when they obviously don't want to talk to you. That's why chatting in a line is good -- you have a maximum of 5 mins if the conversation goes nowhere.
> Getting talking to a big group is hard; it's easier with singles or couples.
So my initial reaction is, this person is trying to target one or two people because they're "easier", almost as if they have less of a defense against your approach.
> The drinks or food line is a chance to get talking to people when they've peeled off from their group.
This immediately made me think of the previous line, and sort of hunting for a lone person to attack once they've left the safety of the pack.
I don't think talking to someone in line is creepy at all. But no matter where you engage them (food line/bar/bathroom/etc), if you've been waiting for someone to leave their group just to talk to them, that is creepy. However, it could be that the commenter was not suggesting to do this at all and I misinterpreted.
If you see a big group of people talking they probably all know each other (or there will be one person, such as a speaker at an event, holding court). Getting into such a group will be awkward. You'll either break up their banter while you do introductions, or you'll stand there smiling like an idiot while not getting all the in-jokes and being mostly unable to contribute. (If there is one person holding court you can work your way in, but these conversations are rarely productive.)
Hence the rest. I'm not suggesting you wait to ambush a particular person when they leave a group. I'm suggesting you talk to whoever happens to be behind you in line. Similarly, with couples or single people it is easier to have those initial conversations where you search for common ground.
If it doesn't come naturally to you (like the author by her own admission), there is likely a good reason that you find it uncomfortable. Like maybe you actually don't have anything interesting to share. Or you don't really care about the people you are meeting. In either case, no point in faking it or pretending, find a social context that you actually enjoy.
Lots of people are shy in general gatherings but completely light up in the company of others who share their (geeky) interests.
It actually has made me a happier person. I talk much less about myself and learn much more about other people. Whether I'm really truly, deeply interested is not the point.
When it comes to working with people, I find it easier to get consensus and motivate people when I know what it is they want. By getting truly interested in other people, it's much easier for me to know what motivates them.
I've been to very few of these events and at one I approached one of the people who gave a short talk earlier in the evening to merely ask him more about his business. Towards the end of my first spoken sentence to the guy, he turned to his female cohort and blurted, "wow, did you hear that, Kristy?" (as she sticks her hand in front of me, while he walks away). It all happened in the span of 5 seconds and I couldn't decide if it was just really smooth on his part (being a seasoned networker) or really douchey. I decided it was both.
'Kristy' was also pouring some drinks for some other people at the moment and thus couldn't talk after the initial handshake.
"Mr. Seinfeld! Hi, I'm ____. I'm a huge fan of your work...", the guy says with eyes gleaming.
Seinfeld briefly glances at the man and then turns towards the woman he's seated next to and smiles.
"Would it be a bother to ask you for a picture?", the guy continues.
Without missing a beat, Jerry blurts out, "_____, can you believe it? A person would walk up to me, ME, while I'm taking my family out to a nice family dinner, interrupt us, and then have the nerve to ask me for a picture. A picture? Can you believe it? Some people!"
Jerry never breaks eye-contact with the woman and never again acknowledges the guy standing by his table and family. The guy eventually slumps away back to his table, pays for his meal, and leaves.
As an example, I recommend a visit in another country. Socializing is vastly different in another culture. But, even if it is not natural for you at first, take your time, and see that the new culture is learnable!
To do this, I really recommend a reflected, thoughtful approach.
That's why networking is such an "awful word".
Also: Produce something of value for the world and networking happens automatically anyway.
It's a horrible dream. A great deal of human (vocal) social interaction consists of saying things that aren't actually interesting. Nods and "uh huhs" and other such noises, and conversations doing no more than confirming to each other what the weather is like at the moment and how nice/unpleasant that is, and so on. It exists for a reason, and that reason is not to impart interesting information.
You're right on your second point, I agree entirely.
No they don't.
"Everyone has different needs in terms of personal space, and one of the fastest ways to creep someone out is to get too close to them when having a conversation. If you google “personal space diagram” you’ll see all sorts of sociological visualizations of the degrees of person proximity okay-ness."
Reminds me of a ex-friend who always said I'm only a normal friend and yet we always have conversations that I would say is in the very very inner of a personal-space diagram.
PS: We r no longer friends due to a misunderstanding. I miss her.
For leaving a conversation, I rarely bother with an excuse, I just say something similar to "Hey it's been really awesome meeting you, $person. Ill definitely $contact_in_future_plan!"
Seems to work just fine :)
This is a networking event: if I walk up to your clique and you just ignore me, forcing me to stand there until I give up and leave in frustration before you acknowledge my presence and ask who I am, it is not me that is being "rude". It is this kind of isolationist belief that makes it impossible to accumulate groups of people: be charismatic, and make everyone who comes near you get pulled into your conversation; if someone is just standing there, say something to them, don't leave them hanging.
Seriously: this article is dangerously wrong on almost everything it tries to cover (the only parts that are on target are the parts at the end about escape and not being drunk); I only chose that one example because no one else here had complained about it yet, but the real complaint that needs to be made is a general "no, don't listen to this article, there are too many issues with it to cover and the result is you are going to come off creepier".
[time passes as I look at the article again after having looked at the comments here] Actually, no, I also need to pick on these parts, because I'm actively concerned someone will take them to heart:
> A great way to start a conversation with someone you admire (before you say anything about them or their work), is to compliment them on something they’re wearing.
Is the idea that this advice is just for women? Because otherwise, this is absolutely deadly advice: as a man, walking up to a woman at a networking event, talking about something other than work (which is also suggested in this article) and leading with a clothing compliment is not "business networking" and is not going to be appreciated by many women. (And if the person you are approaching is a man, he is going to take it as flirting, frankly whether you are yourself male or female ;P.)
> In every social interaction, one person usually leads with the greeting and the other person goes with it. They have to. If the person you’re meeting goes in for a hug, ...
Now, pair that previous paragraph with this mentality that the person leading a greeting gets to choose its level of intimacy: that a hug is appropriate, and if that's what happens first everyone should be forced to go along with it... this is not OK. To be clear: I'm a "hugger", but I would never greet someone at a business networking event with a hug unless I was trying to be creepy.
I can only imagine how bad the result would be taking this attitude and combining it with the specific advice I complained about in the previous paragraph would be construed. I realize the advice was for the receiver, but without concrete advice for the initiator, I think this gives the wrong impression of the dynamic and will lead to unwelcome situations.
Here's my very simple advice: walk up to people, if in the US (probably elsewhere as well, but customs differ and you should learn the local protocol) hold out your hand for a handshake, say "hello, my name is ____", wait for their name, and then ask "what do you do?" and try to get genuinely interested in their response. Do not introduce yourself with a spiel about yourself: they don't care yet and won't really listen anyway.
Note: while most people will answer this about their job, some people will self-select into more personal hobbies. This is fine, and is the non-creepy way for this to happen, but you are here to business network, so when you've exhausted that topic (and not before, as you don't want to act disinterested) ask them what brings them to the event: this will likely shift them back to their job in a non-awkward way. If they don't talk about a job here, just use this answer in the next section (as it will still be somewhat "functional"). (If they are being actively evasive they probably just don't want to business network with you and the non-"creepy" thing would be to thank them for talking to you and excuse yourself.)
At some point they will feel the need to ask you what you do, as you've now spent so long actually caring about what they do (something that is probably sadly rare as everyone wants to talk about themselves). Now you get to tell them how awesome your job is, and as you already know so much about them you can pitch yourself in a way that they will best understand and that hopefully demonstrates some kind of synergy. This will hopefully cause them to start getting interested in you enough to start asking you follow-up questions.
At the very end of this conversation, you ask them for a card; if they cared about the conversation enough to ever think about contacting you later (and again, this should be due to the business synergy), they will now ask you for a card: you don't need or want some silly excuse for why you are shoving cards at people (as this article suggests), you want to make the other person wish they had your card. If they don't ask you for a card, you "failed", but forcing them to take your card just so they can throw it away later doesn't fix anything.
(I started typing up something about approaching groups, but it got way too complex, and I'm typing on my iPhone ;P.)
I have been at a designers meetup-party once out of curiosity and the vibe, atmosphere there is totally different from more nerdy events. And the tips suggested in the post would have worked, I guess.
To me, the core problems with the advice in this article are really general. As I primarily complained about, it encourages behaviors that, from talking extensively with female colleagues about "women at tech conferences" issues, I believe if applied by a man to a woman would come off as "not respecting me for my function but instead how I look and my personal life" (which is why I wonder if this advice is specifically targeted to women; but even then I think it would be suboptimal: to a man it will come off as flirting and to a woman you will seem to be promoting a stereotype they are probably trying to avoid).
But additionally, I think it ignores really general "how to make someone want something you have" strategies that apply to all kinds of situations (from sales to dating). These are the complaints I litter through my own advice: that you want to make them ask about you, and you only win if you get them to ask for your card. The article has you introducing yourself with a spiel about how awesome you are and handing the other person your card "because you have too many".
To see how unsuccessful of a strategy that will be in the more general case, redraft the situation to trying to give your phone number to someone at a bar: humorously, now the "don't talk about work" thing could be useful (as they are probably mentally trying to get away from work ;P), but introducing yourself with a spiel that tries to make yourself sound cool that has nothing to do with the other person's interests, and then handing them your phone number with an excuse like "my friend insisted I give my number to 10 people tonight" may get someone desperate who found you amusingly awkward to call you if you "play the numbers game" (and thereby might even feel like "success"), but it wasn't really the winning strategy to obtain high-value connections.
(Note: the part about the "spiel" I'm getting from the section about introductions and specifically the end part with the "biggest tip" that seems to actively discourages saying "hi my name is ___, what's yours?". This tip was very confusing to interpret, however, as it seemed to both provide a valid praise regarding humility when meeting a celebrity while at the same time pointing out that the other person doesn't know who you are and you should explain, seemingly without them asking. It might be that was just a mixed example, showing how Paul Rudd didn't assume you knew his name. Even if I read this wrong, and the more I think about it I wonder if I did, I think much more concrete advice about how to make this work is useful, as I tried to provide in my earlier comment, and my core complaint was around the business card strategy anyway.)
But at the same time, much of the networking advice out there is biased toward the stereotypical middle aged man in a suit at a business function, so I found it refreshing to see a context I find myself in a lot more often discussed in this article.
I guess the real trick to good networking is being able to correctly read the subtleties of social contexts and adjust accordingly - harder to encapsulate in a blog post unfortunately!
Now, in you would try that in a close-knit group, you'd be seen as an intruder, imposter, or potentially danger (to the alpha of the group). Don't do that.
Don't make plans for a "weekend at a weird naked hippie spa together" during your first conversation.
Seriously, this article starts out a bit creepy and then follows it mostly with stuff that should be common sense, even for an introvert like me. I did find some of the excuses for non-awkwardly ending a conversation to be decent. Might add a few of those to my list.
This does not involve or imply becoming a doormat. The thing needs to be mutually enjoyable / beneficial.
Then, when someone offers to help you, you'll recognize when the offer is genuine and you are not "imposing".
Some connections -- many? -- are simply a dead end. Don't "push it", with these -- for the other party's sake as well as your own.
If your nature is to be creepy, trying to fight it isn't going to work; you can't fix creepy, as a friend once told me. But you can learn to be creepy in a good way (that is far too long for me to explain here). Just be friendly, confident, happy, and talk like you don't care what people think of you. If you don't normally do those things, fake it. If you find that difficult, fake it harder.
If you go to a party alone you'll seem extra creepy because you have no friends and nobody to build social karma off of. If you're going to be creepy, make it seem like people enjoy your creepiness - the best way to do this is to bring a non-creepy friend to talk to occasionally. But you won't stick to them the whole party. Also, nobody introduces themselves at the bar line unless they want something from you, so don't worry about how seeming popular might put them off of talking to you.
Interrupting people has to do with opening up groups and changing conversations. You can do it and risk seeming rude, but if properly executed you can join someone else's group dynamic and refocus the conversation.
Don't fall for the passive/submissive greeting crap. How you greet someone, and how you let them greet you, matters greatly - especially in unknown power dynamics where you're trying to get a leg up in social or business standing. Only greet people the way you want to greet them. You do not have an obligation to please everyone or bow to whatever awkward/unwanted social norms they conform to. In the worst case, you trying to mimic their custom might come out even more awkward, which isn't helping your creepy case. You don't have to give every stranger consent to grope or kiss you if you don't want.
The best way to introduce yourself to someone you admire is to feign ignorance and treat them like a random joe schmoe. Don't fawn over their clothes or their work. Basically, don't worry about anything at all; make small talk if you want, but don't think too hard about it. Ask them direct questions about a subject you're interested in, as being genuine is hard to fake. And don't be more respectful of their time than any other random at the bar; they're an adult, they'll move on if they feel like it.
And honestly, if you find yourself still talking when the place closes down? Good on you! Life's too short to head home before you seem "awkward".
It's as if people have collectively realized that awkwardness can be a little like figurative social 'death', but then instead of promoting discourse about how to forgive this triviality, everybody says 'No, it might signal something! It's death! We must avoid death!'
Also the author seems a good candidate for being socially awkward "creepy" person herself. Examples:
- #6 "Don’t talk about work. You can of course compliment someone on something they’ve done if you want." Wait what? I thought you were supposed to be networking -- why can't you talk about work? Are you supposed to talk about something personal they have done? Remember that people's careers are often crucified for making "unprofessional" remarks cause the person they were talking to (or the person behind them they were not talking to) can tweet about it or suchlike.
- #7 "I definitely find the process of exchanging cards to be incredibly awkward." Um, "Here's my card". If the other person takes it, fine. Otherwise don't take it personally.
Looks to me as if the author is projecting advice for dealing with her own specific set of social neuroses as being "non-creepy networking at a party".