Network Better

These events don’t have to be awkward. Here’s how to do it right.

The thought of spending an evening networking often conjures up images of cheesy intros, awkward laughs, and shameless business card hocking. But they don’t have to be daunting, says Carlos Davis, founder of Charlotte-based professional development firm Stand & Deliver LLC and the creator of Charlotte Networking Week, a series of events designed to help local professionals connect and build brand awareness. The fourth-annual event will be the week of Jan. 15, 2018. (Visit here for details.)

The key to making networking events work—whether they’re a breakfast gathering or a cocktail party—is to focus on how you can serve others in the room, says Davis.

“Everyone has a value, everyone has a skill set, everyone has a talent,” he says. “Why not give it? You want to come off as a resource, not as a used-car salesman.”

The goal, he adds, is to create a positive imagine and lasting impression. “It’s about how fast someone can recall you when your industry comes up,” Davis says.
We asked Davis some rapid-fire questions that could be racing through your mind at your next professional gathering. Here are his recommendations:

The conversation I’m in is falling flat. What to do?
Ask more questions. Listen more. Talk less.

Give compliments—yes or no?
Yes. Compliment a tie, a pair of earrings, an amazing idea.

Should I tell jokes?
Only if you’re good at them.

What should I have worn to this?
Look at it this way: “If I’m overdressed, I’m never under-dressed.”

I’m trapped in a conversation and need to meet other people. How should I make a graceful exit?
Set an appointment to continue the conversation later.

As for this drink in my hand?
You don’t want to be the lush. Compose yourself in a way that’s positively memorable. But do hold a drink—whether it’s water or a beer.

What to do with this fresh collection of business cards in my pocket?
Make sure a follow-up happens. If you’ve got a phone number, call it within the next 24 to 48 hours.

How often should I go to these things?
At least once a week. There’s always something happening in Charlotte.

Photo: Chuck Holliday of Chelca Studios