Thursday, November 12, 2009

Host Behavior

Being a strongly introverted personality, I have a hard time with networking events, no matter how much I practice them. And I've been practicing for over twenty years.

Now since I'm not only a consultant, but my specialty is communication, you might think this is a drawback. And it is. So I do my best to minimize the deficiency by pouring mental energy into networking events and by using "technique" to make up what I lack in natural ability.

One of the best techniques for me is one I learned from the classic book on this subject, How to Work a Room by Susan Roane. If you're alone in a room and not sure who to talk to or how to approach them, look for the people who are standing on the edge and alone. Roane calls them the "white knuckle drinkers." As she points out, these people are usually not "losers", but they may be shy. In any case, they are usually very approachable and extremely grateful when you take the initiative to break the ice.

I call this technique host behavior. Instead of acting like a lost guest at the party where I don't know anyone, I assume the role of host, whose job it is to everyone else comfortable. It's amazing how taking the focus off myself makes it easier to connect with people.

Recently I was at a large event and, after the first few conversations with people I knew, I had that sinking feeling of being alone and not sure what to do next. I fought down the impulse to go hide in the men's room and instead spotted an outlier on the edge of the crowd. I walked up to him, smiled and said hello. I asked him what he thought of the event and what he was looking to accomplish there.

Not only was this guy emphatically not a loser, he turned out to be the learning director for a mid-size company--for me a valuable contact and even a potential future client. At the end of the conversation, I didn't even have to ask for his card. He just reached into his pocket and handed it to me. You just can't network much better than that.

Host behavior: a perfect tool for the networking introvert!