1. Blog

Networking Series - Chapter 5 - Small Talk

DATE: 6/18/2014
You're in an environment and you don't know any people there. You're scared of introducing yourself and joining the conversation. How will you start anyway? What do you have to say? The most difficult "simple thing" in the world is small talk.
Networking Series - Chapter 5 - Small Talk.

On the other hand, approaching someone and introducing yourself is simple. Sometimes, a genuine smile and a simple "hello" is more than enough. The other will reveal it with body language and gestures if they are open to you. Make it a mission in a few Networking sessions to observe, i.e., "to read" people. This exercise will improve your instincts in picking the right people to approach for a conversation and choosing how much you should talk. 
If you don't have time for it, join an interesting group while you are "passing by". Nobody will ask you  why you joined. Some groups may not look quite inclusive (especially if they made a closed circle), in which case one or two people may make a wry face once you join, telling that they are talking about something private or drop their conversation. Here is your first failed attempt! Now that you've seen it is not necessarily the end of the world, it's time for you to move on with new targets.
Loners are most of the time the people who don't know anyone in the environment. Keep them on your radar because they will be the ones you'll feel comfortable with. Ask simple questions but don't insist if they don't answer. Don't have any clue about what to talk about? Did you rehearsals just disappear like a bird? Pick up all-times-classic: The weather.
Observe the other's participation to move on and watch yourself. You are two people talking to each other. You both may want to meet others as well. Your eyes are scanning through the venue, and you are positioned in a way to watch others. People like this are open to "Networking". Regardless of their groups, simply approach the people who exhibit the same kind of behavior. They will be waiting to include you in their conversation.
You may be carried away by what you're talking about. Do, however, remember that you are there to network with others as well. Exchange business cards, thank for their input, and leave to introduce yourself to new people. 

Many of us find it embarrassing to wear a badge in events. However, a badge can be your starting point for a conversation. Address people by their name while talking. Repeat the name to yourself over and over. Build "maps" to remember their name next time you encounter them without a badge.  
Normally we shake hands when meeting or saying goodbye. The ways people greet each other vary in different cultures. A universally accepted one, which is the Western etiquette, is shaking hands. According to the Western etiquette, you cannot kiss the person on the cheek after shaking hands. A foreign businessman visiting you may find such an attempt awkward. Plus, you should know that shaking hands is not a power play. However, I personally prefer shaking hands firmly over a condescendingly limp shake. Make the other feel that the parties are equal while shaking hands. Don't almost crush the bones of a hand extended to you but don't give your hand in a patronizing way either. 

Ertugrul Belen & Optimist Publishing House