I am writing this from an AirBnB in New Orleans, having just attended the inaugural News Leaders Association conference and now staying through the week for the Online News Association conference.
It is a week full of catching up with old friends and colleagues and meeting new folks. It takes a lot of extroverted energy and is 97% networking.
About that. Networking is one of my soft skills. I have learned to become pretty decent at it, despite my anxiety. It is a soft skill and one you really can only learn through practice and saying the wrong thing a few times. But, most creative people are honestly pretty awkward people as well, so we can focus on the wrong thing we said to that person three years ago and do they remember and think I am an idiot or did they totally forget who I am because I really am kind of forgettable …
Stop right there. We’re all awkward. Most of the time we think we come off worse than we do. And if a person blows us off, so be it.
Outside of that little pep talk, I wanted to put pen to digital paper on some ways I’m trying to network in a more meaningful way. Small talk about the weather isn’t going to cut it. And you know it’s tiring to talk about what you do for a living all day because you hate explaining your job. So how do you avoid that?
First, look at name tags. If the person works at a place you recognize or are a name you recognize, start there. Ask them about that amazing project they did the other month and how they did that. Make it a positive thing, don’t gossip with someone you just met. (You never know who is friends with who.)
If you don’t know of their work, or have not met on the internet, here’s a few questions I would be thrilled if you asked me this week.
Questions To Ask At Networking Events
- What’s the most interesting thing you read recently?
- What’s your favorite book/podcast/Youtuber?
- What’s your secret recipe? (I make a mean flan.)
- Do you think hard seltzer (insert whatever hyped drink or food you can think of) is worth the money?
- What would you do if not ____(insert job here)?
- Tell me about your latest success or achievement.
- DC or Marvel? 100 duck-sized horses or one horse-sized duck? (Silly, I know but really hilarious conversations come out of these)
- What should I eat next? (I am well known in my house for planning dinner while at lunch)
- I’m interested in _____. Who should I meet here?
- What’s the next exciting thing for you?
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