Martin Farrell

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Join me in my quiet campaign for more polite networking

18 August 2014

No more eyes scanning the horizon, no more rude interruptions – let's adopt a networking style that befits the high aspirations of our sector

Martin Farrell

It was a while ago, but I still remember it: in the babble of networking conversation at the end of a third sector dinner, I approached a fellow diner with a handshake. That's as far as our interaction went. I recall seeing my intended conversation partner's eyes looking over my shoulder, scanning the room for more interesting networking fodder. After a few mumbles, I was left on my own, abandoned for richer pastures.

On another occasion, I was in conversation with a few others when someone launched himself at us and, without even a "hello", commandeered one of our little group into private conversation.

Bad manners, bad habits. When negotiating a noisy room at our next reception, let's build on our good networking habits and banish the bad ones. Polite is productive – and charitable.

Picture 1: You arrive and see a room of strangers who you imagine are intimates, and you feel you have no place. Replace this with another, truer voice: "There are people here I'm going to find interesting – and, on the way to finding them, I'll meet lots of other interesting people." Go ...

Picture 2: You approach two people in a close eye-contact conversation. "Hello, am I interrupting a private talk?" Only once out of 99 times was the answer "yes". At all other times, the duo became a trio.

Picture 3: You're in conversation and you see someone hovering close. Move to make space and open your huddle. "Hello, my name is Martin, we're talking about ..." Welcome.

Picture 4: You want to end a conversation but are stuck? Try something like: "I've enjoyed our talk. How about we say our goodbyes and see who else we can meet in the room?" Clear and up front.

Is this obvious? Good. Then be the first to enlist for the quiet campaign to grow a style of polite, productive and generous networking that befits the high aspirations of our sector. No more eyes scanning the horizon, no more rude interruptions – but many more handshakes, connections and rich exchanges.

Third Sector

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(Photo courtesy Third Sector)