3 Tips to the Fears of Networking

This past weekend I hosted the 2014 Kappa Sigma Michigan District Conclave for my state, of whose chapters include Alpha Zeta (University of Michigan-Ann Arbor), Delta Psi (Michigan State University), Omicron Rho (University of Michigan-Flint), Sigma Zeta (Northwood University), Sigma Eta (Central Michigan University), and Sigma Kappa (Grand Valley State University). Now, I have posts galore to write from this, but I thought I’d start with an easy one that everyone can relate to: Networking!

Now, networking can take place in person, online, on the beach, on the moon, and awkwardly, even in the bathroom. However, effective networking is a different thing. So I thought I’d offer some tips to frequent fears we all have to help you when you really want to network effectively but those darn fears pop up.

FEAR #1 – Forgetting the person’s name

Tip #1 – Pay attention during conversations with new people

Let’s face it. Unless you have a perfect memory (which in most scientific studies say only exists in 2-10% of children and not adults) you will meet those people where you shake their hands and this runs through your mind: “CRAP…WHO ARE YOU???”

Don’t be afraid of this! Be honest, and ask them their name. The trick is that you should try and remember something/anything positive about the person and bring it up next ( if you’re a person who is a Feeler (MBTI Peeps), you will automatically require yourself to do this).

For example: After them telling you their name, let them know that you did indeed recognized them, and that you remembered them due to the conversation you had with them about the panda in the national zoo and how they liked pandas too.

This way, they know that you were listening and engaging in your previous conversation and you want to have a real connection with them. Most of us understand that we get inundated with names, and many times can remember everything but a person’s name when meeting someone new. This helps to confirm that you’re a great person just lousy with names.

FEAR #2 – Approaching for a Greeting

Tip #2 – Be confident but respectfully greet colleagues who are already engaged in conversation

Sometimes you will be at a conference or meeting and you’ll know a person or two that are engaged in a conversation. You’d like to say hi to them, but you don’t want to interrupt them. So how do you approach them?

Well first off, don’t barge in and say “hi”. To some, that method is a power move, and most of us know this, and thusly just “schmooze” the person and do it just to boost their ego and get them to move on.

For the purposeful and meaningful network, be respectful. Hang back a foot or two away, and wait until they are finished or there is a significant lull in their conversation. Then step forward confidently and extend your hand to greet them. Excuse yourself for any possible interruption,and tell them you just wanted to say hi and that you’d love to catch up at a later point in time. Sometimes they will introduce you to the individuals they were talking with or even draw you into the conversation, at other times they will shake your hand and allow you to move on your way, however you’ve been able to respectfully say hi, let them know you are there and that you would like to talk/catch up at some point in time. They will remember that you were respectful of their time and conversation and more likely to remember to catch up with you.

FEAR #3 – Is it stalking to friend/follow a new connection on Social Media?

Tip #3 – When you fist meet them, just ask if they have a platform that you could connect with them on

Let’s be honest…most of us will stalk and check out the social media profiles of people we meet at meetings or conferences. I’m a chronic practiccioner of this (Though I do it to help with names). But should you add them?

It’s an easy answer: When you meet them, just ask them if they have a platform that you could connect with them on. It’s a respectful way to tell them that you are on social media and would like to friend/follow them and allows them to let you know which ones they use personally, professional or for both (Basically you are respecting their separation of personal and professional identities).  This also allows the individual to let you know several things about them which they may or may not realize that they are telling you:

1) Whether or not they use social media

2) What platforms they use

3) The frequency of which they use the platforms

4) What the best way to connect with them

5) Their philosophy of social media and networking

For example when I meet a new colleague, I ask “Do you use social media and are there any platforms that I could connect with you on?”

Sometimes they will tell me their Facebook url, or their Twitter handle and seconds later we start Tweeting. However, on some occasions it has allowed them to let me know they have them but don’t use them, or that e-mail or phone are more effective. It also allows them to let you know that they have a separation of professional and personal online interactions and not to necessarily stalk and friend them later.

NOTE: The one exception that I would proffer is when using Twitter, if you are posting to the meeting/conference hashtag and new people begin to interact with you on the platform. Then it’s ok to simply follow them. 🙂 The key is to only follow those who interact with you and they take the first step.

So those are some tips to some of the fears that we all have and currently encounter when we’re networking. Enjoy and good luck!

Until next time!

Peace, Love and Pandas!

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About bdproffer

I am currently the Assistant Manager for the University Activities Board at Michigan State University. After earning my B.A. from the University of Michigan-Flint, I entered the Student Affairs profession. After a few years in the field, I returned to school and earned my M.A. in Educational Leadership-Higher Education Student Affairs from Eastern Michigan University. In my spare time I blog about my thoughts and musings on current issues in higher education, student affairs, web 2.0, LGBT issues and general life inspirations and observations. I also volunteer for Kappa Sigma Fraternity.
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