Thoughts from the cheese platter


Picture this:

You anxiously await your chance, the opportunity to get 30 seconds to impress. Do you interrupt the conversation NOW? Wait for a moment so you don't seem rude? But heck, you still need to make your way in for your 30 seconds. 30 seconds of opportunity to impress. That's right- the 30 seconds right before someone more impressing comes along as almost an unplanned tag team to take your place. 

Ok, you made it over. Get ready. Hand shake and the talk begins. 

Their eyes are wondering, looking for the next person to talk to. Ah. Ok, now eye contact again. I'm getting a blank stare. Geez. What's this person thinking? 

(Smiles and says so great to have met you.) You somehow get positioned out of the circle. 

Did you impress? Did you earn your keep? Did you make a connection? So many questions to consider why checking out the cheese tray before trying to attempt the same pattern again. (And now you know why there is a cheese tray featured in this post. Because any excuse to post a picture of cheese and talk about cheese is a great excuse. Amen?)

Some of you are picturing a round of the Bachelor or Bachelorette. It makes a lot of sense why. But for today's post, this is a picture painted of a networking reception. Young professionals might be laughing now because TRUTH. This experience often leaves us feeling like another round of this reality TV show. Except we don't leave with a rose at the end of the night-- we're the ones sending a follow-up email or text, hoping to receive a reply. 

I'm not going to hate on networking receptions because they can be hugely beneficial. Yet just like the bachelor is not a long-term approach to building solid relationships, nor are typical networking receptions. Relationships are formed with people who should have more substance than a few minutes of conversation and also another component: time. Relationships take time and effort and trust. 

The pressure can feel like too much before, during, and after a networking reception to leave a great first impression, send the best follow up email, and then wah-lah: make a life-long connection. 

So hopefully to help with this bachelor-of-an-experience, here are some things that wise people have shared regarding these beloved networking receptions:

1. Don't fake it: don't fake another persona or set of values or anything at all to gain a first impression you think the other person wants you to come with-- you can only come with what you know and who you are. Just imagine trying to keep up various acts after the event-- wait, was I the introverted-smart guy or gal? Or shoot, did I need to become an enthusiast who made everyone laugh? 

2. Curiosity wins: pre-formulated questions often feel just like that-- robotic. Natural curiousity wins-- be intentional and also be curious to let the conversation go where it goes. 

3. Elevate others: Someone who engages in conversation ready to elevate others-- a manager, a friend, a college student, a team mate-- those are the ones to migrate toward. Do the same when appropriate. Champion others in your conversations and you will find networking receptions feel a bit different-- less "prove how awesome you are in a few minutes" and more "use this as an opportunity to share the good things those around you are doing". That is to say this may be a good chance to share something you personally are doing in a particular space and that's great, as well. But by bringing in the impact of your work on others, this tone can continue in the conversation.

4. Follow up: But not with the templated email you found when googling "example of a good follow up email to send after a networking reception." Make it personal, make it memorable to the conversation, make it valuable to the other person. Also, dare I say it but a phone call might also be a great option for follow up. (And all of the millennials squirm... ha!) Someone once shared that he steps aside at receptions or any event in which he meets someone new to jot down a few notes so he doesn't forget something that person shared-- hometown, a new hobby taken on, the university a child attend, etc.