“And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.”
~ Friedrich Nietzsche

I used to hate going to dances in junior high school. I always felt awkward. I wanted to be like the cool kids, but I didn’t know how to dance. And, no, Mom, I’m not going to go up to one of my classmates and admit that I don’t know how to dance and then ask them to teach me! They already think I’m a nerd! I don’t need to slip any further into social ridicule and pariahhood!

But I digress.

I think many of us have similar feelings when it comes to attending networking opportunities. Whether they be professional or social events, it can often feel like an awkward and unnatural environment. We don’t know how to “dance” with the other attendees, and walking up and admitting we don’t know how to connect with other human beings would probably land us on their “weird” list.

The cool thing is, we really only need to know one or two moves and we can be out there dancing with the rest of the beautiful people. Put on your favorite music and follow the simple step-by-step.

  • Put on your host shoes. Your only concern is to make the other person welcome and comfortable. Pretend you are the host and they are your guest.
  • Find a dance partner. Ideally, find a singleton who looks like they need rescuing, but don’t be afraid to join a larger group.
  • Take the lead. Don’t worry about what you are going to say. Think about what you are going to ask. Ask the questions you want them to ask you.
  • Share the spotlight. Be interested, curious, and fascinated about the answers they give you. If they ask a question, answer, but always return your attention to them.
  • Hold off on dipping. Don’t push the conversation beyond what is comfortable at the relationship level. Remember, your goal is for them to feel comfortable.
  • Don’t hog their dance card. If they seem inclined to continue their networking, let them go with a promise to follow up for a longer dance/conversation at a later point.
  • Be with the one you’re with. The person you are with deserves your full attention. Only after you have separated should you look for a new conversational partner.

As with dancing, networking conversations are mostly about meeting your partner where they are, keeping your focus on them, and not stepping on their toes. The next time you are at a networking event, take a moment to get settled, then get out on the dance floor. You never know when that next partner will be the one that sweeps you to your next success.

What is your favorite question to ask to create a great conversation?

Image Credit: ToddCombs, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons