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?”
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.