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Media Advisory: Holiday networking

A Wake Forest University professor says using your gifts can turn a party into a network

By Stephanie Skordas, skordas@wfu.edu, 336-758-3826 or Cheryl V. Walker, walkercv@wfu.edu, 336-758-6073 Office of Communications and External Relations

Your upcoming holiday parties are more than a chance to nibble on appetizers and watch your colleagues imbibe. A Wake Forest University professor says these office or neighborhood parties can yield benefits in the New Year if you develop excellent networking skills.

Evelyn Williams, associate vice president for leadership development, says changing your party perspective means following a few simple steps and using your networking gifts. “When you’re a guest at a party or an event, you bring gifts,” Williams says. “We’re not just talking about a host or hostess gifts, it could be the gift of information, the gift of respect or the gift of gratitude for the work they’ve done with you.”

Williams developed with colleague Dr. JD Schramm of Stanford a list of gifts, loosely based on Robert Cialdini’s six principles of persuasion, that can help turn a party into a network.

Empathetic listening

Party chatter can be more than small talk. As you exchange demographics – where are you from, where did you go to school, where do you work — look for deeper connections. “What uniquely connects you? ‘Oh, my aunt and uncle live in the town where you went to school. They love it. Did you like living there?’ could be one way to do it,” Williams says. “Research tells us that the more unique connections you can find with someone, the more persuasive and influential you can be with him/her.  But empathetic listening is more than that, it’s about having an orientation toward truly understanding someone else’s perspective, to discovering what they found interesting or memorable on an emotional level.”

Reciprocity

Williams says influence is about exchange. What do you have to share? Can you introduce them to someone else at the party they would enjoy meeting?  Did you read a recent article that might be helpful to them? “People like to return a favor, and they might share something you need to know too.”

Liking

Cialdini’s research shows people are more easily persuaded by someone they like. Be thoughtful about how you present yourself in conversation. “Talking about potential is much more exciting than talking about what you’ve already done,” Williams says. “Don’t rehash past successes. It’s seen as bragging because you’re focused on the past.” Instead, Williams advises you use the opportunity to talk about upcoming projects or objectives you’re excited about because that will be more exciting to other people.  Moreover, while research tells us that using flattery does help you appear more likeable, expressing sincere gratitude can set you apart.

Authority

Williams suggests sharing relevant information from highly respected sources is another gift to offer. “You may not have authority, but you can quote it! What does the Wall Street Journal or Forbes say?” she says. “What did President Obama say about a certain topic?”

Scarcity

When supply is low, demand goes higher.  “Position yourself as a scarce commodity,” Williams suggests. “You might say, ‘I’m only going to have room for a few projects next year, so I’m really excited about the one we’re going to be doing next month with you.”

Commitment and Consistency

As you’re ending your conversation, this is the time to try to build a stronger relationship, especially if you are using your networking to find a new job. Instead of asking for a lunch meeting, which is a big commitment, Williams suggests starting small. “In terms of persuasion, if you can get someone to commit to a small thing, like permission to follow up by email, you begin to build a relationship. Then the next time, you can send an email asking to meet for coffee.”  Make sure you follow up on whatever you’ve agreed to so you are consistent in your actions.

If six steps sounds like too many to remember while balancing appetizers on a small plate, Williams says you can boil them down to three. “Discover what genuinely makes them tick, take the time to truly understand their perspective to win yourself a hearing, and connect with a commitment.”

About Wake Forest University:

Wake Forest University combines the best traditions of a small liberal arts college with the resources of a large research university. Founded in 1834, the school is located in Winston-Salem, N.C. The University’s graduate school of arts and sciences, divinity school, and nationally ranked schools of law, medicine and business enrich our intellectual environment. Learn more about Wake Forest University at www.wfu.edu.

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