Shepa Learning Company Blog

When Bad Networking Happens at Tables

June 10th, 2014 by

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People go to networking breakfasts, luncheons, dinners, and black tie galas that cost a bundle and take precious time from their busy days, but sadly they miss networking opportunities, or in some cases just behave badly. There are folks who plop themselves down in their seat, and that’s it — they just wait for the speaker to start or the meal to arrive.  They might talk to one of the two people sitting next to them.  Or not.

Then there’s the person who comes with another person and huddles in private conversation. Their body language says ‘no entry into this discussion’. They hardly acknowledge the other people at the table.

The latest Low Network Shepa activity is the person who pulls out their iPhone and informs other table guests within earshot, that they are ‘tweeting the event’.  They then go into ‘heads down’ mode.  People who feel they must tweet throughout the whole event should probably be sitting at the table at the back of the room with the rest of the press.  We’ve become a world where the social graces have been misplaced, or booted out of the room.

You can turn bad networking to good networking with these simple steps:

1. Plan to go to the event and engage with as many guests at the table as you can.

2. Before the event starts walk around the table and introduce yourself to everyone at the table.  In most cases exchange business cards if you don’t know the other person.  We say ‘most cases’ because there could be very few situations, such as dining with the Queen, where you would not do the card exchange.

3. Don’t tweet or put your phone on the table because you are sending a message to others at the table that there’s something more important than their company.  If you must tweet, make it snappy and get back to the conversation.

4. Remember your table manners.  No one wants to be the first person to reach for the basket of buns (ah hah, a carbohydrate lover!) but be brave.  Pick up the basket, offer the basket to the person on your left and then take a bun (if that’s the way you roll, bad pun…) and offer it to the person on your right.  That person should take the basket, take a bun if they wish, and offer it to the person to their right.  Those are the rules.

5. If you are ‘hosting’ a table (your company name is on the stanchion in the center of the table) make sure everyone from your company is in ‘host mode’.  Host mode is: 1. making sure all guests are engaged in the conversation, 2. being the connector amongst the guests who may not know one and other  3. perhaps introducing some of your guests to other people in the room (making sure that you’ve not abandoned someone at the table when you are doing this)

6. There are 3 levels of conversation: Engaged Participant, Passive Participant, Baggage.  You know which one…

– Gayle Hallgren-Rezac, co-author of Work The Pond! (with Judy Thomson and Darcy Rezac)

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