#1 Networking tip: Croissants vs. Bagels

left side of image shows people standing in a u-shape at a networking event, right side shows people standing in a closed circle

What I’m about to share is a tip from a very memorable section of my Art of the Schmooze training.  A year after attending my session, sometimes even two years later, I’ll run into a past attendee and they’ll excitedly point at their feet and say “Croissant! Croissant!”

What are they talking about?
Let’s say you’ve arrived at a networking event, you’ve circled the room looking for an opening for your first conversation, but you’re surrounded by those tight networking circles. I call those shoulder-to-shoulder huddles “bagels” and they are nearly impossible to break into. If you are like most people you’ll be looking for an easy opening and might be drawn to the person standing by themselves against the wall. Unless you’re a regular and can introduce that person to someone when your conversation ends, your best bet is to engage with folks in those bagels.

Now imagine you’re one of the people standing in a typical networking bagel. If you took a small step back with one foot and turned your torso slightly, you’d create an opening that would make it easier for someone to join your group. That is the croissant we’re looking for.

How do you  stand so you’re easy to approach?

  1. Many people, often women, stand with their feet crossed. To start moving in any direction they’d first need to untangle their feet, step in one direction, and then start moving.
  2. Others stand with their feet shoulder width apart. If you are talking to only one other person and you want others to join your conversation (because it’s easier to leave when more than two people are talking) – this stance isn’t very welcoming.
  3. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart, one leg back a bit, with weight on the back leg, torso turned slightly toward whichever foot is in back. Now you are approachable and can easily invite anyone passing by to join in the conversation.

This simple physical act is one of the best ways to navigate an event[click to tweet] and create a welcoming community space. I’ve found that only a small percentage of attendees need to be practicing this and the effect will begin to be felt by everyone. They’ll leave wondering why that event felt so friendly and welcoming.

But let’s say you’re approaching a bagel and no one in the circle seems to have a clue that you’re there. What do you do? My suggestion is you try to get the attention of just one of the people in the group. You shouldn’t be trying to take over the conversation or talk to the whole group. Check how everyone is standing and see if you can spot someone with a more open stance. Just focus on one of the people in the circle and as the group conversation continues begin a side conversation  with them. And of course use your own body language to welcome others into your new conversation.

What exactly is the stance?
Your weight is on your back leg which is turned slightly – either towards one o’clock or eleven o’clock.

In the comments
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Robbie Samuels has been recognized as a networking expert by Inc. and Lifehacker, and profiled in “Stand Out: How to Find Your Breakthrough Idea and Build a Following Around It” by Dorie Clark.  Check out “On the Schmooze” his new podcast.

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