How to Make Networking at Events Less Awkward

By: Benjamin Holmgren

Being a born and raised extrovert, I was surprised to feel nervous as I opened the door to the coworking space. This was one of my first formal networking events since starting my business.

I quickly found a seat at a table as the event began. I leaned back and scoped out the room as the presenter droned on about his new tech startup.. I spotted a few people that I decided seemed approachable and interesting to talk to. I also noticed several people I decided didn’t want to speak with..

They seemed awkward.

They looked like I felt.. Uneasy, out of their comfort zones, and wishing they were at home on their couch with a sleeve of Oreos.

The presentation finished and the networking began. I shook hands with the gentleman next to me. We exchanged pleasantries and then he started talking about his recent move to the Portland area. Then about his position as an advisor on a non-profit board. Then about his minimalist worldview and how he only ever wears one outfit and never uses deodorant.

I scanned the room for an escape route.

Eventually my chatty friend had to take off and I started for the door as I thought, “enough with this program.. This is why people don’t come to networking events.”

I briskly headed for the exit but as I reached for the handle on the double glass door, a modestly-dressed guy with a short haircut stuck out his hand and introduced himself with a smile.

I stopped and exchanged a firm handshake with him. He asked my name and we started chatting there in the foyer.

He asked me about my business and I told him about my biggest challenge: sales. He prodded some more and I shared some of my lofty sales goals that I had been falling short of. A few minutes in, I realized I had been talking during our entire conversation. I hadn’t even asked what he did for a living.

So I did. “Oh, I’m an Executive Sales Coach” he said with a smile.

I had spent several minutes telling him all about really specific problems I was facing… all challenges that he helped his clients with all the time.

He invited me to what he called a “consultation,” which as he explained, was a deep-dive to see if sales coaching would be a good fit for me.

Over the next 12 months, I would pay him many thousands of dollars for his sales training, coaching, and support as I got my business going.

At the end of the 12 months, we would end up merging our companies and working together.

The Executive Sales Coach I met at the event was Theophan..

And now we’ve been growing Elite together for over a year.

You know where it all started?

A firm handshake, a look in the eye, and the genuine desire to be interested in me.

Today, when we have new students come through our sales training, they often are faced with a few tough lessons for the first time.

They realize:

  • As hard as it is to face, nobody cares about you (until they see that you care)
  • You don’t make sales by talking, you make sales by listening and understanding
  • Everything you want in life is on the other side of dealing with people

Notice what Theophan did when I met him:

  • Asked about me, my goals and my problems (three of my favorite subjects in the whole world)
  • Actively listened.. He wasn’t glancing over my shoulder or checking his phone
  • Recognized he might be able to help me and invited me to the next step without putting pressure on me

I’m constantly surprised at how many people struggle with this!

Please realize that in the next conversation you have, the next person you meet, or the next time you’re at a networking event…

Put your focus on the person you’re talking with.

Everything you want is on the other side of a conversation with another human being.

Act like it 😉

This article was meticulously written in the middle of the night by Benjamin Holmgren, sales coach from Portland, Or.

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