And how to handle!
Here are 5 of the most common awkward business networking moments I have experienced and some suggestions about how to handle.
How do I start a meaningful conversation?
Introduce yourself and then say, “May I share a quick story?” Then share a story about something that recently happened to you or something you’re dealing with. Don’t get too personal and don’t spend more than a minute or two with your story. Just be real. Then ask if they have a similar experience. You may feel a connection after sharing stories. Then ask questions about their work, goals, connection to the meeting or event, and what they’re looking to accomplish over the next 90 days. They may ask you similar questions “How about yourself?” Now you’re having what the experts call a “meaningful conversation”.
What should I do if I forget someone’s name?
Just ask! “I’m sorry; I forgot your name.” Be apologetic and self-effacing. Keep in mind that you probably didn’t “forget” their name. You simply weren’t listening to it because you were focused on the next thing you were going to say. To avoid that, repeat the person’s name back to them. If it’s a common name like Tom, associate this person with someone you know named Tom. If it’s an unusual name, ask for the proper spelling and make sure you’re pronouncing it correctly. In fact, practice by using that person’s name when speaking with them. They will be appreciative that you’re looking to get their name correct. Keep in mind they have been dealing with having an unusual name their whole life so make the experience they’re having with you a good one.
What can I do if I’ve done something embarrassing or stupid?
As Lieutenant Dan said in the movie Forrest Gump. “Two standing orders in this platoon. One, take good care of your feet. Two, try not to do anything stupid, like gettin’ yourself killed.” Or by saying something stupid that will make the situation awkward. An apology will handle most mistakes – unless it’s disrespectful or mean spirited. Discussions about income, politics, or charged positions you have about anything that is going to create a conflict should be avoided. The goal when meeting others at an event is to make a good impression and begin a meaningful business relationship. Not prove how smart you are, successful you are, or how good you are at something.
What if I’m speaking with someone and someone else interrupts us?
It depends. If you know you can circle back with the person you were speaking with later, say goodbye and mention that you will find them later. Another approach might be to mention to the person that interrupted that you’re wrapping up your conversation soon and can they give you a few minutes to finish? This will let them know that they are interrupting without creating a conflict or awkward moment.