As a self-confessed introvert, I have to admit that mingling with a group of hand-shaking strangers is not my cup of tea. Especially at 7.45am where the coffee is impotent and the bar is closed.
Having spent years crafting the art of invisibility at business networking events, here are my top six ‘how not to’ tips:
1. The purposeful walk
Rather than stand friendless next to the topiary tree, the brisk and purposeful walk to nowhere in particular is very effective. Two laps of the room and a couple of fruitless trips to the toilet are great time passers.
2. Check the email (again)
The smartphone is a godsend for the nervous networker. Heartily tapping, swiping and clicking can keep you busy for ages, smoothly avoiding awkward eye contact or real-life interaction.
3. Pretend phone call
An oldie but a goodie: shove the phone to the ear and nod and grunt meaningfully. This strategy combines beautifully with ‘the purposeful walk’. Just make sure your phone doesn’t actually ring.
Because I adore tiny sandwiches, deep-fried things, spinach triangles, satay sticks and cute sorbet cones, this is my favourite conversation avoidance strategy. It’s bad for you and bad for business, but just a little bit too delicious to stop.
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Danger: A free-flowing bar and thirsty silences can be a recipe for disaster. You’re charming and gregarious for the first 45 minutes and the life of the party for the next half an hour, until the excruciating over-sharing begins.
6. Cling on
The absolute Rolls Royce of networking avoidance behaviour. Make a beeline for someone you already know, stand next to them and cling on until the bitter end.
Sad but true, I’ve perfected all of these techniques at some point (except the pretend phone call, honest!).
However, in recent years I’ve worked to change my ways and embrace the great value and enjoyment of authentic networking. In fact, I’ve been helped by the dozens of terribly good networking tips that I’ve gained from this very community.
Do you have tricks for event invisibility or tips for networking?