It is a real privilege getting the chance to go to a Christmas Dinner event. Who doesn’t like being wined and dined?! I was the lucky one given that chance recently. Arranged by the great people at Digital Doughnut, they put on a champagne reception, then a wonderful 3-course meal followed by more drinks, and winding up in a marvellous pub around the corner. Of course, that all sounds delightful, and I could end my tale there. I had a lovely time and got a little merry. But there was a point behind it all: Networking.
Of course, it is understood that one goes to these things for the networking opportunity. But how does one go about it? After all, we are sociable creatures, humans. We are not very good at being alone. Social interaction is key. So why does it always feel so awkward if you do not know anyone in the room?
With a blunt disregard of self-awareness, just strike up a conversation with the topic of ‘work’. After all, that’s what you’re there for. Approach someone, say "Hello", ask what they do, what their company does. It all seems rather logical, for sure, but it’s amazing how quickly some things escape one’s mind when confronted to make small talk, and you may find yourself reiterating the basics, in your head, so that you don’t dry up. And speaking of drying up, alcohol is not an essential tool, though naturally many may turn to a drink or three for Dutch courage. After all, think of the poor waiter holding a heavy tray…*
2. Me, me, me, me, me...
The beauty of talking about work is its thankful reciprocity to familiar ground. Once they’ve told you what they do, inevitably they will ask the same of you. The trick is to ensure you have anecdotes ("this one time, whilst I was writing CSS… [insert peals of laughter]" okay, maybe not that anecdote) and business examples to discuss. Be proud of your brand! For instance, as the Digital Doughnut event was for those in the media and creative industries, my focus was on projects where we’ve created innovative promo work, like our Assassin’s Creed ‘Eagle Vision’ project.
3. Do you have any ID, sir?
Don’t forget to pick up your business cards before you leave the office. They are your thumb print, your indelible, unique identity. Hand them over. Aim to be rid of them by the end of the night. Though equally, replace them with other people’s. Each contact you make, arbitrary as it may seem, could point to your next lead.
4. Don’t be shy to say "Goodbye"
Remember to bear in mind: everyone else is there for the same thing too. Business. And no-one will hold it against you if you bid your adieus and wander off to speak to others. Especially if there is no business you can do for each other. Worry not about the social conscience.
5. Rinse and Repeat
When all is said and done, you’re still here for networking, so move on to the next person. The more you converse, the easier it becomes. The easier it becomes, the greater the impression you will make. See, who said work couldn’t be fun?
The Digital Doughnut event was a great example of putting all the above into practice. What was really helpful was having such a well-organised event as theirs to attend. Between each course, we all moved down a couple of spaces, depending on the number on our placeholder. Trust me when I say that some people aren’t very good at counting. Especially after a few glasses of wine. However, many good conversations were had, many new people were engaged with, and many a business card was handed over and/or received. The calibre of attendees also proves that Digital Doughnut are clear in their mission. And from my perspective, with a handful of follow-ups already made, they certainly know what they’re doing when putting us all in a room together for a few hours.
*n.b. we do not condone getting smashed, and follow all government guidelines of sensible drinking, like the good, responsible adults we are.