Sometime ago I wrote a post about networking that had a list of 5 things to note when networking. Here, I will write some observations about networking with people in a big group and people who are alone based from going to talks and seminars by a business school I am following (IE business school) since I was in university. There were certain things I noticed:
1) There will always be people who won’t care
Sure you attend a talk and you have a friend with you. Your friend wouldn’t really care about meeting others in that room and might most likely drag you into it. There will also be others who will (most likely) be with their friends or companions and won’t give any glance at anybody’s way.
I won’t try to judge them for their reasons because reasons vary. Those based on my own experience would be 1) it’s not their objective 2) they’re not comfortable with meeting people outside their comfort zone while they are with their friends. Personally, I like separating once in a while to chat with new people or chatting with this new person with people I know. However I’m not saying to never invite other people to go with you to networking events. Once I invited so many people to this Innovation and design thinking class by the business school and the network actually helped me network. Turns out, the network that I brought in also wanted to network and the connections we made in that event became smaller.
2) Feeling the environment. Sometimes there’s no difference in the talks between individuals and groups
There’s not much difference even with the chattiest talker between two people and in a group. There’s a chance you’d never get to speak or you will do all the speaking. Although, some people find it less awkward to talk in a group and people tend to get attracted to a group that is engaged in a lively conversation.
There’s this session I attended and I wanted to stay behind a bit and chat with the participants. I was running out of reasons to stay behind, the crowd seemed to form groups that seemed to be limiting discussions between themselves. Some of those groups were the type above. I scanned the room quickly and felt the environment. There was this group that seemed to be attracting me and seemed open enough so I went there and sat and listened to this very chatty Nigerian living in Manila talking about her story. Although she was really talkative, she took the time to include the people in the conversation and incorporated them into her story and questions. Pretty soon, the speaker (the director of the business school) joined us and more people seemed to gravitate towards us even if the topics were the most diverse of topics like football, management consulting, business schools, etc (oh they were still somehow related to the business school). Needless to say, I sort of became friends with them.
3) the key to continuing conversations : Ask good questions. The key to continuing the network: follow-up after the event
I read a newsletter from the former McKinsey interviewer, Victor Cheng, how asking open-ended questions will help you so much in meeting new people and talking to strangers. I couldn’t agree more. Although some people would still give that “don’t talk to me” or that “i’m not interested in what you have to ask / say” vibe, it gets better answers. One that might connect you even better. The trick is always to follow up. Although it is kind of hard when you start feeling you do all the asking while the other party seems to just give off a robotic open-ended response and doesn’t seem to be genuinely or at least remotely interested in your conversation. Don’t be frustrated. It’s not your fault.
Yes we meet a lot of people, and sometimes we hear great stories that we never forget. But, the actual networking isn’t just done in the walls of the events but AFTER it. That little note or message or hello you sent afterward might get very far. In my case, I saved some money by getting to borrow GMAT books, talked about forming a Lean-In women’s group and talked about studying for GMAT together but the better thing is, we seem to have this diverse group formed.
3) Feel the vibe but don’t judge
It’s got more to do with this linkedin article I read about this guy who studied in Japan for his PhD and in one networking event, he talked to this lonesome white guy in a corner who stood out and talked to him for 5 minutes. The conversation didn’t give him plenty of exciting vibe and he never thought that the guy would someone who was going to be really successful. The guy turned out to be Bill Gates. I’m pretty sure this happened to us or we’ve heard a similar story one way or another but the biggest lessons and reminders always come from people who surprise us.