Imagine this. You’re dressed to the nines and have your business cards at the ready. You’ve got the perfect spiel prepared and are ready to work the room. You enter the fancy schmancy lobby and make your way to the event space. The waiters are serving cocktails and hors d’oeuvres. You can hear Boney James playing in the background. People are milling about, laughing, and the air is thick with potential.
You. Are. Ready.
What you may not have considered, however, is who might be in the room with you. Knowing how to identify and navigate all the different personality types there could go a long way—maybe even add a little bit of fun to the sometimes boring, usually dreaded, networking experience.
Let’s take a look at some of the people you might find inside your next event:
1. The Chatty Cathy (or Craig)
This person loves to talk—a lot. In fact, they might not stop talking. This person will find a way to keep the transitions coming and you, held hostage. Although most networking conversations will come to a natural close—allowing you to gracefully move on to engage with others—this one may not. When you notice this happening, use your gift of gab and firm resolution to punctuate the dialogue and continue to work the room—perhaps even introducing them to someone new.
2. The Wall Hugger
As you may have suspected, this person has a hard time being there to begin with. They may be shy and lack the confidence to speak with strangers in such an intimate setting. The thing is that most people who fade into the landscape end up being written off by the “movers and shakers.” Why not say a kind word, share brief conversation and inspire them to develop the confidence to work the room, too?
Related: The Introvert’s Guide to Networking
3. The Stalker
It’s great when people find you charming. But, when admiration becomes obsessive, you’ve got to disengage quickly and gracefully. How do you know when the situation has reached the breaking point? Well, unlike Chatty Craig and Cathy, this person will be more proactive about keeping the interaction going. In fact, they may even follow you around all night, which may impact your ability to connect with others. Since, there’s no beating around the bush with this person, be frank. Advise that you want to connect with others and suggest they take the opportunity to do the same.
4. The Drunk
Networking can be stressful and free flowing booze can cause some people to go a bit overboard. A person who has had too much to drink probably isn’t going to remember anything you’ve talked about anyway. Furthermore, the likelihood of things going south (an awkward outburst, argument or scene) is great. Best bet? Avoid engaging someone who seems to have spent the night saddled to the bar.
5. The Gossip
Always abreast of social stats and damaging personal secrets, this person spreads the goods like wildfire. Be careful. It’s true that someone who will freely dish on others will happily dish on you, too. When you notice the conversation going south, politely excuse yourself. You don’t want to become the next casualty or worse, guilty by association. Someone who makes talking trash about others a priority is certainly someone you’ll want to avoid.
6. The Self-Absorbed Ego
Ever met someone who takes every opportunity to turn the spotlight onto themselves? They will usually have very little interest in what you’ve got going on and are more focused on touting their wins. While the main premise of networking is to meet new people and learn more about them, you must keep in mind that it should very much be a two-way street. You didn’t come to be a flunky, so don’t waste your time stroking this ego or trying to get a word in edgewise. These efforts almost always fall flat and end up making you feel worse.
7. The Complainer
Sure, we could all point to things going wrong in our lives. But, they shouldn’t be the focus of every conversation, especially at a networking event. A person who constantly complains will suck the life out of you and quickly cause your mood to plummet. If you encounter someone like this—someone who has a hard time finding the sunshine after the rain, try to lighten the mood with a great story or an unexpected tale of inspiration. Who knows, they may take a cue and spread the good cheer to others. After all, who couldn’t benefit from an earnest boost in morale?
Have you ever encountered any of these people at a networking event? If not and it caught you off guard, don’t fret. You’ll be better prepared to identify and engage them the next go-around.
To your networking success!
A leading authority on leadership development and organizational performance management, Karima Mariama-Arthur brings more than 25 years of comprehensive, blue chip experience in law, business and academia to every client engagement. A shrewd advisor to distinguished organizations from DC to Dubai, her expert insights help clients to successfully navigate today's ever-changing and competitive global business environment. Karima is the author of the internationally acclaimed and 2019 NAACP Image Award nominated leadership guidebook, Poised For Excellence: Fundamental Principles of Effective Leadership in the Boardroom and Beyond (Palgrave Macmillan), which launched at the United States Military Academy at West Point. As an extension of her work, she speaks regularly both nationally and internationally in her areas of expertise and serves in an advisory capacity on select corporate boards.