I can stand people. People aren’t too bad. I guess that’s a step in the right direction from my father, whose deep philosophical insight on people is, “if you’ve met one, you’ve met them all.” Of course, he’s also the same father who says that all I need to get through life is two jackets. One for funerals, and one for “miscellaneous.”
But persons I can’t stand. I can’t stand them for three basic reasons: When you’re talking to someone one-on-one,
- You can’t yawn in the middle of them speaking, even if you only got 2 hours of sleep last night
- You can’t scratch yourself in certain places, even if you have accidentally sat in a pile of poison ivy
- You can’t blame an errant fart on the guy next to you, even if it was your idea to go get burritos in the first place.
Individual persons just won’t understand these actions, unless of course they too were indulging in burritos as a self-treat for having to stay up all night because they ran out of Benadryl. If you have, let’s get together and talk sometime.
Regardless, social skills are without a doubt are one of the most important ones you’ll need in your lifetime. And knowing when you can yawn, scratch your rear, and fart at the same time is lesson one of that skill-set tutorial. After mastering that one, move on to these other essential, yet unspoken ones you’ll need, not just at networking events, but for the rest of your life:
1. If there are refreshments or some sort of mastication involved, stay away from the spinach. Spinach has a wonderful way of getting stuck in places it shouldn’t be. And as comfortable as it is in between your two front teeth, there is a time and place for everything, and talking to a prospective employer or investor is not it.
2. Become the butt of all jokes, or joke about butts. Remember that guy in elementary school that ate mud? Or that girl that beat up all the guys on the playground? Of course you do, because they were memorable; different. I’m not condoning eating mud or beating up guys on playgrounds, especially at a networking event, but don’t worry about looking silly or saying something stupid. People will remember you for it. And even if it’s for a bad reason, in my opinion, it’s always better to be remembered than forgotten.
3. In the instance that there are refreshments, break the ice by being the first to grab a quiche. Everyone’s been eyeing the shrimp cocktail and pork eggrolls for a while. It’s the first thing most of them noticed when they entered the room. The enticing aroma of fresh finger foods wafts into their nostrils and teases their brains, relentlessly stimulating their appetites. Set them free. Grab that quiche and release the dam of desire that’s been burning a hole in their stomach linings. You know you want to.
4. ALWAYS seal the deal. The point of networking events is to make contacts. Do that. Get as many contacts as you can, the feeling you get with a new email address in your list will override the fact that you’ve had a chunk of spinach stuck in your teeth for the past 30 minutes. Don’t go home empty handed. Either that or you had better have shoved alot of the refreshments in your jacket pockets.
5. Have an exit strategy. Let’s face it, there are some bajillion people in the world. You’re bound to meet at least one person who utterly bores you to no end. Maybe it’s the facial tick, maybe its their breath. But for whatever reason you find yourself stuck face to face with them, being sucked further and further into conversation hell. Sometimes it helps to have a sick aunt or an overactive bladder.
6. Agree negatively. Disagree positively. Noone likes to be disagreed with, but noone likes to be gone unchallenged as well. Noone can be pleased. The closest you can get is to agree negatively or disagree positively. For example:
Person: “I think I’m going to shave a lion.”
You: “That’s a great idea! Watch out for the teeth and the claws though, heard those things are pretty sharp.”
Person: “Hmm on second thought, maybe I won’t.”
7. Do the math. Smile 90% if the time, look quizzical 8% of the time, and look shocked 2% of the time. Congratulation, you have just feigned attraction and intrigue.
8. Leap before you look. When it comes down to it, you’ll regret the things you didn’t do more than things you did do. So jump into that beany burrito, dive into that pile of poison ivy, and don’t be afraid to get no sleep. In the words of one of the great father’s of our time, being miserable builds character.