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12 Ways to Handle Awkward Business Networking Moments

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I just got asked this question at a firm I was speaking at by a financial advisor. It would have been awkward if I didn’t have a good answer.

I shared my most awkward business networking moment as part of my response.

(Related: How to Network at a Party

Years ago, I shared the spotlight on stage at an event with a woman I’m going to call Jackie, well, because that’s her name. I was very intimidated by Jackie because she’s a former boss, very serious, and the number two executive of a hotel chain.

Jackie wore very large glasses which made her eyes appear huge! Well, we spoke in the morning and I didn’t think our messages worked well together so I wanted to let her know my thoughts over lunch but was hesitant because of my intimidation.

Instead, I let her talk while I ate. And as she did, I bit down on a steamed string bean and a stream of hot water shot right onto her eye glass lens and dripped down into her soda. Bloop!

And for the first few moments, I pretended that it didn’t happen!

Now, her big eyes were cross eyed staring at the water that was now on her lens. I desperately held back the laughter and said, you saw that, huh? She said, “Yeah.” I said, “OK, now what?”

(Image: Thinkstock)

(Image: Thinkstock)

We both busted out laughing. I never discussed my concerns from the morning. When we got back on stage in the afternoon, we were awesome. And the eye glasses never made it back to her face.

In a networking environment (or perhaps at any event or party where there are others mingling around), sticky situations can arise. Here are some of the most common awkward moments and some suggestions on how to handle.

1. How do I introduce myself?

Start with your name and a “nice to meet you!” Ask questions about them!

2. How do I start a meaningful conversation?

Start by using opening questions that you genuinely want to ask that also serve as conversation starters.

3. How do I introduce others in the conversation without being rude?

After introducing people you meet give them the chance to talk about themselves.

4. How do I introduce others and gracefully walk away?

After introducing others excuse yourself and offer to speak to them later.

5. What should I do if I forget someone’s name?

Just ask! “I’m sorry; I forgot your name.” Be apologetic and self-effacing.

6. How do I ask for a business card?

Offer to exchange business cards and explain why it would benefit both of you.

7. How do I write on someone’s business card without offending?

Always ask permission to write on someone’s business card.

8. How do I offer my business card?

Offer to exchange cards and explain why. Make the exchange a mutual gesture.

9. How do I know when to end a conversation?

Stick to your time limit. Don’t monopolize the other person’s time.

10. How do I excuse myself politely without offending?

Offer another introduction or offer to allow both of you to meet others.

11. What can I do if I’ve done something embarrassing or stupid?

An apology will handle most mistakes – unless it’s disrespectful or mean spirited.

12. What if you just don’t click?

You won’t click with everyone. Just keep the conversation short and sweet.

So, here’s a final question: What are your own most awkward networking moments? What strategies have you developed for handling them? Click the “discuss” button below and post your ideas.

— Read 10 Serious Networking Myths and Mistakes on ThinkAdvisor.

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