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June 25, 2014

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I actually didn't like the LinkedIn one, it sounds slightly creepy, somebody researching me in order to have a conversation with me. The "prep" makes it artificial, makes you seem to be trying too hard.

Otherwise, I agree that getting people to talk about themselves is the way to go. I usually start chatting about the event and their connection to it or their thoughts on what was presented - using this as a common connection and then taking something they mention and using it to move to the small talk part

This is why I suck at networking/small talk:
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"Personally, I think if you just like people and are curious about them, you'll do fine"
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I like people OK, but I'm not that curious about them.

***Personally, I think if you just like people and are curious about them, you'll do fine.***

THAT is the money quote. Charm, curiosity, interest in others...all these things can be learned and improved. It is the lazy mind that thinks "oh, well, s/he is just naturally good with xxxx." "I'm bad with names" as if everybody else should just accept that you don't respect them enough to put a bit of effort into recalling their name. "I'm not that curious about people", oh well, the rest of us will just have to work around it.

A little effort goes a long way, to remember people's names, remember a little something about them, finding out what YOU might do for THEM, etc. Conversation is truly a 'lost art', and there is a strong trend in recent decades for a narcissistic outlook, especially with younger people. There is a reason for it, social media, advertising, entertainment, a world full of screens talking directly to you (even while you are pumping gas!), beautiful people on billboards inviting you to stare...

The problems and frustration happen quickly for people when they take that behavior into the real world ("I suck at networking/small talk"). Forget somebody's name even though you have been introduced 2,3,4 times? Stare at a stranger? Don't return a call or e? Use your cellphone in a public place? Declare an opinion, and expect it to be respected, let alone valued, unless it is something the other person has inquired about?

SMALL TALK HAS VALUE, not for the subject but for the ability to interact and make the other person feel interesting/valued/connected. People want to know what they are dealing with before committing to spending their valuable time talking with another. The weather, traffic, business climate, etc. are perfectly acceptable subjects, and the people easily bored by this are taking the subjects at face value ("it's boring! This event is boring! The people are boring!"). Wrong. This is your tryout with the other person, to see if YOU have something of value to THEM.

Another thought, here. I have seen people show up at school reunions, and haven't spent 20 minutes going through the yearbooks. It is very clear they haven't even thought about the people they spent four years with, maybe on the same team, same classes, same bus. They are spending an evening (or day) of their lives traveling and attending this event, but haven't spent 30 minutes to improve the experience for themselves (never mind the other people they are 'reuniting' with). And it is cringe-worthy when they rapidly introduce their agenda "I'm in the insurance game." "I specialize in family law, keep it in mind." SMALL TALK allows a re/connection first; give the other party the respect to at least appear that they have some value (as a classmate, family member, colleague) other than a mark/prospect.

If you are going to spend a couple of hours at a professional meeting, and more time traveling, why wouldn't you spend 10 minutes reviewing the business cards collected and making a couple of notes about the people you met? That way when you go to the next meeting, you can spend another 10 minutes reviewing those notes, and not having all those moments "I'm sorry, what was your name again? I'm bad with names. Haha." "Where do you work? Oh that's right, you did tell me that before." Preparation is not 'cheating' or 'insincere', it is smart work making the networking opportunity efficient. It is a waste of the other party's time, as well as yours, to make them unnecessarily repeat themselves, and TIME HAS VALUE TO THEM, as well as you. These networking moments cut both ways, too; unfavorably impress someone with poor social skills or inattentive listening, and you are off their list and will never know it.

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