Using networking functions to your advantage

As Covid fades, you may well once again get invited to various networking functions with your suppliers and customers – meet-and-greet, social events, celebrations, and the like.  These events can be important opportunities for you as a negotiator.  This can be a chance to learn more about your counterparts – what are their plans, who is up and who is down in their company, what gripes do they have, and so on.  It can also be a chance to bond with people from the other team, building the ties that can be so important in an ongoing business relation.

But too many of us treat these networking events as just social functions, and not necessarily very pleasant ones at that. And then we make all the usual mistakes of mixing with people at social functions: we forget people’s names, we worry about being stranded alone in a room of strangers, we don’t know how to join an ongoing conversation, and so on.  In the Financial Times, their business columnist Pilita Clark explains, “successful mixers are good listeners” (Top ways to be a super schmoozer). And before any event, they prepare: “They think about who is going to be there, who they want to see and what sorts of things they can feasibly talk about once they begin a conversation.”  For more on this, see Susan RoAne’s 1988 bestseller, How to Work a Room, which just came out in a 25th anniversary edition.

One skill RoAne describes is how to deal with bores, for instance, self-absorbed blowhards. She gives advice about how to “politely extricate oneself from a conversation without causing offense,” in Clark’s words.  Two possibilities are announcing a need to use the washroom and asking if anyone would like another drink before heading to the bar.  

One of the most important parts of negotiating is getting to know the other side.  Networking functions can make a big contribution.  But to take advantage of the opportunities, we have to be prepared.  We at Mobus Creative Negotiating can offer you a variety of lessons about things to do – and things to avoid.