Networking Starts With A Conversation

IMG_0018Happy Fourth of July! You may engage in celebrating today’s holiday as a party host or guest and either way, you’ll have the pleasure of expanding your social and possibly also your professional network.  From backyard barbecues to weddings, the meet and greet is on, for business or pleasure. Whether you are an introvert or an extrovert, you will feel more at ease if when you encounter new people you can draw from a little repertoire of conversation starters that you can easily recall.

Here’s a list of conversation starters designed to make your summer celebrations a little more fun.  Keep in mind that when you approach a party guest, or a guest approaches you, smile and show that you welcome that person’s presence and you’d like to converse. While you might encounter the rare monosyllabic type who is too awkward to make small talk, in which case you can smile and slip away as quickly as socially acceptable, most partygoers and attendees at social or business functions are primed to meet and get acquainted with interesting people.  They’ll meet you halfway and together, you’ll create the conversation. You will likely be joined by others and that’s all for the good.

  1. Hi, I’m ______; and you are…? Nice to meet you! Do you live in the neighborhood ?
  2. Hi, I’m ______; and you are…? Nice to meet you! How do you know (the host)?
  3. Have you been having a good summer, so far?
  4. Do you like the summer holidays better, or winter holidays?
  5. Are you a summer vacation person, or a winter vacation person?
  6. I’m walking over to the drink table.  Can I bring you something?
  7. The buffet looks delicious (holding your plate and drink)—may I sit here?
  8. As you see, I’m checking out (the hosts’) books. They have a lot of good titles. Do you see something here that you’ve read?
  9. Who is that singing? Could it be Sarah Vaughan?
  10. OK, pop quiz–How many oceans are there on planet earth?

I hope you meet some good people both today and at the social and business functions that you’ll attend this summer and that you’re able to build one or two relationships that outlast the events you attend.  Relax and allow yourself to have a good time.

Show interest in the people you meet. Tailor your conversation topics to those with whom you are speaking. Don’t monopolize the conversation. Listen more than you talk and listen actively.  At some point in a lively conversation you may want to jump in with a witty retort, but try to avoid interrupting and one-upping.

Finally, don’t over-share and if you meet someone with whom it appears there could be a mutual interest to talk business, exchange cards and plan to follow-up a day or two after the party.

Thanks for reading,


The Tall Ships Parade in Boston Harbor. June 16, 1017    Photograph by Kim Clark




Online Reputation Management

Shakespeare, in Act 2 of his circa 1603 play Othello, said it best: Reputation, reputation, reputation.  It is the original personal brand and one of the defining realities of our lives.  As a Freelance consultant, reputation governs the projects offered to us and therefore, our income and the kind of life we’re able to live.  It pays,  in more ways than one, to cultivate a peerless reputation and guard it vigorously.

In the internet age  that is especially so, in both the personal and professional spheres.  Mistakes and mischaracterizations made in digital formats are extremely difficult to dodge, ignore, deny, or correct.  One’s online reputation is the ultimate flypaper.  Take steps to ensure that what sticks to your name is all good.


Along with Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, Instagram and Pinterest are the sites where images of you are most likely to be posted,  by yourself and others.  When cameras are around,  meaning whenever anyone has a cell phone,  which is about 24/7,  make sure that your behavior represents you and your brand well.

There’s nothing wrong with being photographed in an obviously casual gathering—just make sure that you (or others) are not in the midst of activities that could be misconstrued and reflect poorly on you sometime in the future.  If you regularly appear in photos that you know or suspect will be posted to social media sites, counteract with a photo of your own that shows you at work, paid or volunteer. Balance your accounts, so to speak,  and show that there is more to you than non-stop partying.


Create and regularly post original content that makes you look smart, professional and successful.  On your LinkedIn account, announce when you will attend a symposium,  serve on a panel,  teach a course or workshop,  or have recently earned a professional certification or advanced degree.  If you’ve presented a webinar,  request the replay and turn it into a podcast for your website and YouTube.  If you write a newsletter or blog,  link to your website and LinkedIn.  If you’re on Twitter or Instagram,  produce streams of high-quality feed and images that convey the competencies and values that you want to be known for.

Twitter, Instagram and Facebook can feature glimpses into your personal life as well and it could all be for the good,  as long as you are strategic about what is revealed. Your volunteer work is always a safe bet.  Training for a marathon or even a fun and casual volleyball or softball league would be excellent.  Your parent’s wedding anniversary party would make another good personal aspect to include in your online narrative.  Be aware that narrative is the operative word.  Create the story that you want to be told, in a manner that makes you look wonderful.


About every three months,  search your name and your company name in engines such as Bing,  Google and Yahoo and see what comes up in the first 50 listings.  Are you happy with what you see?  Try keywords related to your business along with your city and check your professional reach in a more profound way.

If you find that your business has been reviewed in an excessively negative and inaccurate way,  contact the reviewing site and request that the offending post be removed.  If customers have offered criticism that just may be constructive, address the matter.  Apologize and offer your side of the story.  Make amends if possible.  By doing so,  you’ll add to your credibility and customer service reputation.

It’s been reported that 70% of US employment recruiters have rejected potential job candidates when something about them that was considered unsavory appeared on social media.  Freelancers should assume that prospective clients will do the same.  Maintaining and monitoring your online reputation has never been more important.

Thanks for reading,


Christmas Party Networking

Christmas season is upon us and your party invitations are in the mail.  My favorite part of Christmas is the parties and I usually have a good time.  Christmas parties are an excellent way to catch up with dear friends and meet new people as well and for those reasons they set the stage for networking.  Catch some Christmas spirit and be sure to wrangle two or three invitations (I’ll bet that will be easy for you).  As you add parties to your calendar,  give some thought to the following:

Guest list

Ask your host who’s likely to be in attendance to find out who the VIPs will be and decide whom you’d like to meet.  Do an internet search and peruse the LinkedIn page,  using what you learn to devise a savvy ice breaker plus a couple of questions that will allow your VIP to do what s/he enjoys most—talk about him/herself.  Ask the host to make introductions.  The party is social and not business,  so frame your approach as relationship building,  although it’s probably not taboo to talk a wee bit of business.  Go with the flow.  If it’s not awkward,  ask to get together after the new year to continue your business discussion.  In the second week of January,  make contact.

Respect the occasion

Be mindful that a Christmas party is a social event.  Even if the gathering is sponsored by a professional or business association,  dial back the all-business mode and get to know folks and let them get to know you,  too.  Refrain from treating a Christmas party as just another business meet ‘n’ greet.  Overt selling is to be avoided.

What not to wear

I belong to a club that hosts a black-tie optional Christmas party every year.  About half the men wear a tux.  A white dinner jacket with black tuxedo trousers is likewise very chic and appropriate attire.  A dark suit with tie is acceptable.  The ladies wear after-six formal dresses,  usually long.  A lady can also wear a tux  (work it like Marlene Dietrich).  Ladies should avoid showing too much cleavage or too much leg,  or wearing a very tight dress,  no matter how physically gifted,  when business networking is part of the agenda.

Moderate alcohol intake

 Last year,  I was invited by a friend to attend a Christmas party that was hosted by a prominent marketing company whose client list includes politicians who hold office at the state and federal level.  My friend has worked with the company off and on and he’d like to do more.   He complained that lucrative assignments had been withheld from him.   However,  as I watched him guzzle about six drinks in 90 minutes,  I wondered why they gave him any work at all.   His foolish behaviour also soured the introductions he made for me  (and I’m suffering for it,  because I don’t know anyone else to bring me back this year,  without the lush).   In other words,   make the most of your networking and pace your drinking.  Two or three drinks are all you need.  The idea is to relax and not get tanked,  or even visibly tipsy.  An unexpected VIP may walk through the door and you don’t want to look and sound ridiculous.  Moreover,  you don’t want to upset your host.

So far,  I’ve attended three Christmas parties.  I had a lovely time at each affair and I was fortunate enough to meet and enjoy the company of one person with whom I plan to follow up.  Two more parties are on my calendar and I intend to make the most of them.  

Thanks for reading,