To Network or To Avoid: The Uncomfortable Choice

Have you ever wondered whether or not to attend an event? Ouch! Attending can be uncomfortable if you are sure you will not know anyone or you are unsure whether or not your friend will be there. Do you phone friends to see whether they are attending? Do you get ready and change your mind at the last minute because you think you will not know a single person? That is a common issue faced by many business owners and managers.

Unfortunately, we are not taught networking skills. The good news is that they can be learned. A few of these key networking skills are the focus of this blog. First, however, it is important to recognize that we are more apt to succeed in a social setting when we:

  • are able to predict ahead of time what someone’s immediate or distant emotions will be in reaction to something said or done
  • realize that visual overwhelms the verbal
  • remember that we think with our eyes
  • modify own behaviour by being sensitive to others’ reactions and needs
  • conscious of ourselves, our surroundings, the current situation, and other people, and harmonize all four

The most successful people look in the mirror and ask, “Is how I present myself a true representation?” When they are confident that the persona is a true representation they refrain from asking, “What can I do to get them to like and do business with me?” Instead they ask, “What can I do to make them like themselves?” Now we are ready to begin engaging with those we would like to meet and those persons whom we did not identify but turn out to be important contacts.

Eye Contact

Have you ever spoken with someone and it appears as if their head is on a swivel. They look at everyone except at you. This is a deal breaker. When speaking with another person maintain eye contact. At the end of the conversation ask yourself whether or not you could describe their eyes in detail? If not, where was your focus? Were you looking for someone more important? Did you leave them feeling as if they were an important person?

Also, when you are in a group notice who is looking at whom the most. That will tell you who holds the power and who is interested in engaging further with another.

Who Do I Need to Meet

If you choose to attend an event it is essential to consider who will be there or the types of people who might attend. Next, decide which of these people or types of people you would like to meet and why that meeting is important to you. Now remember it is essential to keep your agenda on the back burner. Decide what you might learn from each person you would like to meet. Also, consider whether you need to modify your elevator speech for this audience. If you do, practice the new speech before you enter the room.


Making introductions correctly is critical. How could you introduce yourself or another person in a manner which would make it memorable? Remember if you are introducing another person to say their name before you state their position.

Mutual-Introduction Pact

When you are feeling very shy or reticent, make a pact with a colleague or friend that you will introduce each other to as many new people as possible. Decide how you will introduce the other person to make that person memorable. Now you are ready to work the room.


Shake hands with a few friends. Ask them to describe your handshake. Is it strong, weak, like a dead fish, did you grab them by the finger tips, did you hold so tight they thought their knuckles were going to break, did you keep pumping their hand until they thought they were going to lose their arm, or did you hold your hand in a position which said, “Please kiss my ring.”

A handshake is firm but not crushing. It is one handed- leave the two handed shake to the politicians. After the shake is complete, let go.


When you want to connect with a new person, watch their level of eagerness. If you are too eager, what is that saying to them? If you do not demonstrate as much interest in them as they do in you, what is that communicating?  Match the other person’s level of eagerness. The key is ‘no more and no less.’

At the End of a Meeting

When we are busy or concentrating on meeting someone else it may be hard to maintain interest. It is imperative that you refrain from moving to the next task or next person without bringing closure. The key is to remember that it is important for your goodbye to be bigger than your hello. Also, say more than goodbye. Let the person know you listened and that you will remember them.

Remember that real feelings and emotions do slip out. Therefore, be prepared. Avoid the pitfalls of being nit-picky, controlling conversations, talking about irrelevant topics, and assuming inappropriate roles. You are what we see. You are the best and you deserve the best. Therefore, you can speak with anyone and make as many vital connections as you need.

Brenda Kelleher-Flight

Brenda Kelleher‐Flight is the President of GDP Consulting Inc., a company which specializes in governance training, business planning, and conflict resolution. Brenda will be delivering Networking & Connecting in Business during NLOWE’s 2013 pre-conference workshop. You can connect with Brenda via email or visit her website


1 Comment

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One response to “To Network or To Avoid: The Uncomfortable Choice

  1. Paula

    Excellent Networking Tips! Thanks Brenda 🙂

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