Brooklyn, NY- “Weddings are good places to network, but it’s easy to put your foot in your mouth if you aren’t careful,” says small talk expert Don Gabor and author of the new book, TURN SMALL TALK INTO BIG DEALS: Using 4 Key Conversation Styles to Customize Your Networking Approach, Build Relationships and Win More Clients (McGraw-Hill, April 2009.)
Gabor says it’s perfectly okay—even smart in today’s economy—to network at a wedding reception if you pay attention to these four rules of etiquette for networking in social situations.
1. Bring up general interest subjects before networking for business.
Most people consider it rude to overtly network for business at a wedding reception. Therefore, begin your exchange with questions and comments oriented around where you are and general interest topics such as personal interests, hobbies, mutual friends, vacations or culture. Casually drop into your conversation a few keywords or phrases about your business or how you make your living. Then wait for the other person to comment or ask you a question before opening up business as a topic of discussion.
2. Limit “shop talk” and business discussions at weddings.
Briefly discussing work-related problems or discussing specific business issues at a wedding does offer opportunities to network for business. However, it is impolite to discuss these subjects for any length of time in social situations because they will exclude others from participating in the conversation. In addition, disclosing confidential business details in social situations is certainly unwise or even unethical. Therefore, when business topics do arise, briefly discuss them and then suggest pursuing the matter in more detail at a later time on the telephone or in person.
3. If a person clearly does not want to discuss business, then talk about something else.
Although most people will tell you what they do for a living while chatting at a wedding reception, some simply may not want to “talk business” and to pressure them will probably only cause them to dislike you. However, if a person mentions a problem or issue in which you can help, or he or she asks you more about your business, then you can assume that the topic is open to discussion, but proceed slowly.
4. Don’t reveal too much personal information.
Building any relationship requires time and trust, and although most people are willing to disclose some personal information about themselves at wedding receptions (especially after a few drinks), revealing too much, too soon can doom your relationship before it even has a chance to start. Therefore, avoid bringing up or asking others about highly sensitive or personal topics because others may feel that revealing “too much information” suggests a lack of judgment and self control.
Before you go to the wedding reception, ask the host for a guest list so you can target and “Google” any good networking prospects. Next, come up with a few “small talk topics” that easily segue to your area of business interest. Keep all your conversations with all the guests light, low-key and upbeat! Of course, since you never know who you might be talking to, be ready to network!
Don Gabor is a communications trainer and the author of seven other books including the best-seller, How to Start a Conversation and Make Friends. He was a spokesperson for Grand Marnier, Sprint and Frito-Lay. He can be reached via the email: email@example.com.