Ah, business networking: two words that invariably bring to mind soulless rooms full of people you don’t know, heavy with near-tangible awkwardness, trying to ‘take the edge off’ with another plastic cup of slightly ropey free wine. Let’s be honest, the thought often sends shivers down the spine and the practice can reduce even the most confident, erudite businessperson to a frantic, bashful shambles. And yet everyone will tell you that ‘it’s who you know that counts’ and acknowledge the vital importance of strong social networks in effective business. You’ve got to network but you really don’t want to: I trust we’re not the only people ever to face this quandary…
That’s where Coaching Creatives come in — literally, to our office for three hours this afternoon. After one too many excruciating experiences, Melissa Kidd set out to train herself to just get better at networking and she now trains others to do the same. Melissa ran through various principles, disciplines and tips to help us be more effective networkers — amazingly, without turning us into terrible people or having anyone die of embarrassment along the way.
I hope she won’t mind me flagging up a couple of points from the session:
- ‘Reading the room’ — is it OK to talk to that person? Am I going to seem like an intrusive weirdo if I introduce myself randomly to that group? Would that person actually like someone to chat to them or are they hovering by the door because they’re part of the event security team? Difficult questions all, but Melissa was able to give us some pointers for identifying when someone will thank you for engaging them in a conversation and when they’ll… well, not.
- ‘The opening gambit’ —
‘hi, my name’s Ben, I work for a company called Team Rubber, I know, everyone sniggers a bit at the name, it’s kind of a digital media company but there’s 3 – well, kinda 4 – parts to it, but you probably aren’t that interested in those but just for information I guess we kind of work in, like, buzz marketing and film production and seeding and digital democracy and I’ve been doing it for, ooh, more than 5 years now and…’there’s definitely an art to making an introduction that’s at once pithy, informative, engaging and useful. Melissa is good at helping you to figure out what that looks like.
- ‘Getting out’ — we’ve all been there: you’re stuck in a conversation that really isn’t adding value to either party and has just become a kind of perverse exercise in endurance — driven either by guilt, or either side’s inability to find a decent, polite way to wrap up the conversation. Melissa took us through some really straightforward ways to move on from a conversation so that both people can get on with using their time more productively without feeling hurt.
It was a really useful session and we covered a lot of ground in the three hours. Hopefully, if you ever meet a member of Team Rubber at a networking event or similar, you’ll now experience an enjoyable and productive conversation with cringing and excruciation at a minimum. And, of course, you could always come along to Rubber Republic’s September KittenCamp to do some awesome meme-themed, pain-free, value-adding networking of your own