How to: Work The Room
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When we ask participants in our Work the Room sessions what’s holding them back from rocking that networking event, it usually fits into one or all of these three categories:
- “I’m not confident enough / I don’t like approaching new people”
- “I hate small talk and I’m not good at breaking the ice”
- “I don’t know how to build a relationship / network effectively”
For many of us the thought of ‘networking’ is terrifying. But really, it’s just a fancy word for making a group of professional friends as adults.
A strong network can protect you from risk (redundancies and restructures happen), provide you with inspiration, push you to be the best version of yourself and they might even become mentors and friends.
Just like Missy, you can put your thing down, flip it and reverse it at any networking event by:
Smile to let people know you’re open
Mama Concierge taught us this one. If you’re shy, she taught us kids to be the first to smile and people will know it’s cool to approach you.
When we are the first to smile, we are sending a nonverbal cue to others that we’re open to connecting, are ‘safe’ to approach at an event where others may feel anxious or unsure.
A Harvard Business Review study found people judge us on two criteria: competence and warmth: “Why are these traits so important? They answer two critical questions: what are these people's intentions towards me? Is he or she capable of acting on those intentions?"
Body language experts rekon people judge us on competence and warmth within seven seconds. So, whilst we might not always feel amazeballs, it's worth thinking about what vibe we're giving off when we swan about.
At our Work The Room events we ask people to whip out their phone and to pop it into selfie mode. We ask people to take a photo of them thinking, and then a photo of them smiling on weekend mode. We ask them to swipe left, swipe right and ask themselves, ‘who would you rather meet at a networking event’?
The cool thing about Adulting is that every freaking event is a networking event - grabbing a coffee, in the lift, at the dog park - having our warm body language on when we’re in the mood to talk makes it easier for the world to feel our mojo. (Introvert hack: if you don’t feel like Adulting, a cap is a great hide away for weekend avoiding eye contact vibes).
Talk about what lights you up - it doesn’t have to be work
Talk about something that lights you up like a tree on Christmas. It’s always more engaging to talk to someone who is clearly passionate and engaged in what they’re speaking about. Talking about the weather or the catering is a start to break the ice, consider daring to be interesting and asking what others like doing when they're not at work - what lights them up? If there's silence, consider putting out your loves and see what happens. You'd be surprised how many people are obsessed with labradoodle Instagram accounts for example #justaying.
Listen more than you talk
The best networkers listen more than they talk. Why? Because they're genuinely interested in others.
As humans we love to feel like we’ve got something to say that’s worth listening to. Be inquisitive. Get interested. Throw in a few ‘I would love to hear more about that’ or ‘That sounds fascinating, tell me more’, when you hear a gold nugget you'd love to hear more about.
Do you listen to reply? Do you find yourself nodding incessantly waiting for a gap in the conversation to respond? It's hard listening, being patient and really hearing other people. Heck, that's why so few of us do it well - it's, well, HARD!
Putting our own agenda on the back burner and focussing on other people as our goal in events can radically change your adult relationships. After spending my 20's thinking about myself - spending my 30's scrapping my agenda and getting on with understanding others helped me really make some awesome, genuine, mutually mojo making relationships.
I’ve made some of my best connections with people when I’ve dug a little deeper and found a tiny diamond of information that fuels the conversation for another few minutes. The juice is usually a few sentences past the weather / work and into peoples fave Instagram follows. (Right!?) Everyone needs good listeners in their network, be one of them.
TALK TO THE 12 YEAR OLD
Yeah, you heard us right. When we talk about what we do in 12 year old language, people who aren't in our industry can get a grasp for what we do, and it also shows you don't take yourself too seriously.
At our Work The Room events, we encourage people to use cue cards which ask three questions:
- How would you describe what you do to a 12 year old?
- What lights you up?
- What do you want to do more of?
Asking these questions gives us a segway into more interesting conversation. When we chat about what lights us up - we show other people our best, happiest self. That shit is contagious.
HOT ZONES, DEAD ZONES
Ice breaking zones are near the food and the bar. People who find networking events a bit nerve wracking will usually be at the snacks or downing a drink. Bonding over the catering is a popular one with the HC crew and head over there to find most people.
Avoiding corners helps you avoid getting stuck in a conversation you're not feeling. If you're keen to remove yourself from a conversation that isn't you flavour, do it with care, make them feel heard, mindful we all worry about getting rejected.
Most of us drivel when nervous and worry about being abandoned. Give them a job “you wanna come get another drink?”, invite them to your other person convo “I’m going to go over there join us?” Or ask if they’d like to walk back to the host with you.
A helpful rule is the 'them, me, us' HC tool:
- “It’s been great chatting with you”
- “I have to run” / “I have to chat to X before I head off” / “I’m going to grab another drink”
- “All the best with [what was discussed]”
The hosts job is to make sure the event flow - and if they organised it they’ll know everyone. That’s the person you wanna pass your new friend onto so they can find someone they can connect with, too. Boring is relative, after all. What we find boring is often totes fascinating to someone else.
Do follow up
If you’re genuinely vibing with someone and want them to be on your team - make time to follow up with them. On doing it in person, it’s totally cool to say ‘I’d love to connect on LinkedIn, can I get your card?’ Better yet, do it on your phone right there and then (a phrase such as ‘great to meet at X event!’ will do the trick).
A common barrier for people unsure how to follow up after an event is 'but I don't have anything for them', or 'I don't know what to do next'. There is no expectation to go for coffee if you're not feeling it. It's more so if you feel you'd like to get to know them better, you can connect, and if and when something crops up you think would add value to their lives you can send it their way. I can't count the number of times where I hoped to hear from someone after an event and.... zilch. And I can't hook them up with that sweet link or person we had spoken about.
You might be surprised to know that less than 5% of people follow up after a HC events - be one of them. That's where the real juice is - creating adult relationships with people we genuinely vibe with. Life's too short, ya know?
And to answer Missy’s question - it is worth it so go on and work it.