How to Not Die of Boredom at Networking Events

Exasperated looking man with his face in his hands

Here’s a typical interaction at networking events.

  • Person A: Hi, my name is A.
  • Person B: Hello A, my name is B. What do you do?
  • Person A: I’m a (fancy job title).
  • Person B: Oh, even though I’m not really interested, can you tell me more about that?
  • Person A: Sure, even though I don’t really care to talk about it…(drones on for 10 minutes).

Ugh, even thinking about this makes me want to puke. Yet this is what I used to do when I met people. As a result, I hated networking events. I would often leave exhausted, unfulfilled, and just tired of faking interest in other people’s jobs. And nobody cared about my job, either. So I never made any of those “valuable connections” that you’re supposed to get from these events.

And that makes sense, given my approach. If you step back and think about it, what is the likelihood that you will be able to relate to someone else’s job? That you will fully comprehend the extent of the job and it’s challenges? And all within a few minutes? Forget it.

I was reminded of this last week with a phenomenal speech at my Toastmasters club. Shawn (the speaker) reminded us that our job titles are usually irrelevant to others, but as humans, we have something powerful within us that enables us to relate to each other.

And that something is: we care about things. All of us do. And naturally, we love to talk about what we care about.

Shawn nudged us to connect on this core part of our humanity, by avoiding the question “what do you do?” and instead, asking “what do you care about?”

Fortunately, I had a chance to apply this lesson that same night, at a New Tech Northwest networking event.

And instead of meeting developers, system analysts, and data architects, which doesn't tell me much about the person inside, here’s a sample of the very real people I met:

  • a recovering alcoholic who is almost 3 years sober, and spends evenings helping other alcoholics who are earlier in their journey
  • an astute shopper that scored a real leather jacket at Nordstrom Rack for $50
  • an aspiring pastor who craves to help people not just in business, but also in their spiritual lives
  • a dad who owns a carpet cleaner and loves cleaning, but for some reason cannot get his 6 and 8-year-old on board
  • a space enthusiast that spends his free time designing a rocket trajectory algorithm to minimize fuel usage for a trip from Earth to Jupiter
  • a JRPG player (I had no idea that "Japanese RPG” was its own genre)
  • a former Au Pair who won the green card lottery, and had dreamed of being an American since childhood
  • a polyamorous person who moonlights as a “professional cuddler” (therapeutic, platonic touch)
  • a resilient father whose career went up in flames, twice once with Enron, and then again with the real estate collapse

I was amazed at how well this question worked. Asking “what do you care about?” with a genuine interest makes people open right up. And of course, when you get interested in others, they get interested in you.

One person I met wants to chat and learn more about my story, another wants to help me brainstorm marketing ideas, and another wants to hire me as a dating coach. And regardless of where these conversations go, I’m just glad that I had fun meeting these people at the networking event.

I invite you to try this and see the results for yourself. The next time you meet someone new, don’t ask them what they do, ask them what they care about.

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Do you freeze up around attractive women? Have you never kissed a girl? Have you never had a girlfriend? Do you feel that everybody else has friends but you don’t? I’ve been there. And it sucks.

Here's my 30 second story: 

I use a wheelchair and I have a degenerative muscle condition. I was always the shy, nerdy kid, and I had ZERO success with women – my first kiss didn't happen until I was 22 years old. I went to an Ivy League University and landed my dream job at Microsoft, but I was miserable. After the girl I was in love with told me, "I don't know how any woman could be attracted to a guy in a wheelchair," I hired a dating coach to turn my life around. Now, my social calendar is booked weeks in advance, and I get to choose the friends that I really want to spend time with. Now, I've been on 60+ dates, I've enjoyed sex and intimacy with several women, and I've had incredible girlfriends. 

If you desire similar experiences, I know I can help you. Get my practical tips for improving your social and dating life by signing up below. I would love to help you, because now that I've experienced these massive improvements in my life, I wish someone would have stepped in much earlier and helped me.

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Amin Lakhani