Break Out From Small Talk Hell – 5 Strategies to Conquer the Art of Networking

Freeze up when your CEO greets you at the coffee machine? Or never know what to say at those already awkward networking events? 

If you feel like you’re in small talk hell, let the good folks from the The Art of Charm help you solve it. It is their specialty, after all. 

Former Wall Street lawyer Jordan Harbinger is now an entrepreneur and social dynamics expert–and now a networking Maestro. But Harbinger doesn’t really like using the term “networking,” which is often associated with superficial connections for quick, personal gain. What he teaches is “relationship building” and forming authentic, long term connections with people.

His consulting and coaching company offers boot camps and training sessions to individuals and companies who want to understand the elements of emotional intelligence and become more persuasive, confident and charismatic. Harbinger’s been at this for awhile—for the past ten years, he’s hosted a top 50 podcast on iTunes, also called the Art of Charm.

So are you ready to work to charm your boss or make better personal connections? Try these tried and tested strategies from Harbinger, then get out there and work that room!

Figure out what people want you to see about them
Correctly reading a person will help you build that true connection much more quickly. If you can pick up on how people see themselves and how they want you to see them, then you will go far. Why is the guy you just met telling you that he often works weekends? He probably wants you to know that he is a dedicated individual and is passionate about his work. You’ve also got to observe how he says what he says, how his or her expression might change when they start to talk about traveling or photography. Likewise, pay attention to your own reactions when someone is talking to you—it might shed light on the intention of this person’s words.

Move on from forced connections
If you want to connect with someone to help expand your business, but quickly realize that you don’t mesh well with this person, that’s reason enough to move on. Don’t invest your time in building up a relationship with someone who doesn’t hold the same values and beliefs in terms of how they do business and their long-term goals. You don’t have to network with everyone at the networking event—more connections does not mean more resources.

Gauge your own self-promotion and adjust accordingly
Networking is not just about listening well. You can share your best stories, but do it in a way that will connect with your audience. If you think you sound too obnoxious, you probably do, so rein it in a little. Take a peek at your audience to gauge the interest level and adjust yourself accordingly. Even if you think you have nothing in common with your audience, remember that as humans we all share and relate to the same basic themes in life. fIf you are coming from an authentic place, your story will be well received.

Be patient
You are building human relationships, and that takes time—as in weeks or even years. There is no “hack” for creating an authentic connection with someone. Be persistent but not annoying. You can avoid that by following up in a different way each time. Share something of value, a link to an article, an offer of an introduction to someone in their field, or even a funny video.

Don’t keep score
Help everyone you can without actually expecting anything in return. Of course, you can curate and filter the people you meet by attending only high-end events, instead of free networking events or conferences that might attract anyone and everyone. But, as Harbinger points out, you can’t predict what person is going to give you an opportunity. What you can do instead, very easily, is connect people within your own current network of contacts.

Forget what you’ve heard about networking—just focus on building authentic relationships. If you are genuine in your approach, you will eventually connect with those who are also genuine in their networking pursuits.


Suchi Rudra

Suchi Rudra is a nomadic writer of articles, stories and songs, taking inspiration from her travels. Follow her wanderings at Tread Lightly, Travel Naturally.