Recently I attended an event, where many people knew each other, and in some cases they hadn’t seen each other in years.  This was our annual High School Homecoming.

As I was reconnecting with others, I noticed something interesting. I was in the middle of speaking to one person, and I noticed that their eyes kept looking away from me.

I knew exactly why he was doing this.  It’s not that I wasn’t interesting, and it’s not that he wasn’t interested in the conversation. In fact, many times he was talking to me, responding, answering questions, yet still looking over my shoulders, and over my head.  He was looking for people to reconnect with. See, it was his 30th year reunion, and my 28th. The 30 year reunion is a big one and more people return to reconnect with classmates in the incremental 5 years gaps, 20, 25, 30, than the off intervals.

As we chatted, I realized that this experience would be good to share on the blog to help educate others of how you can use personal events to network when they are clearly different than business events.

At personal events, people are NOT there to get to know you and find out what you do for work. They are not looking to GROW their network, in fact, they likely despise or look down on others who have that intent.

I do NOT attend these personal events with the intent of networking for business. I am genuinely interested in other people and I like to learn more about what they do. That leads me to ask questions about their work, their hobbies and their families. I like to deepen my knowledge around these topics.  Rarely are other people as interested in my work as I am in their work. Recognizing this is KEY, to ensure that you aren’t overreaching on your networking.

Here are a few tips to ensure you are treating personal events appropriately:

  • Don’t dwell on work activity too much
  • Never ask if they know someone that would be considered your all star
  • If they have a need, for career advancement, or otherwise, offer to help
  • Reach out about a week after seeing them, and mention it was good to see them
  • Don’t over network
  • Don’t ask for business
  • Don’t ask to send information
  • Always default to small talk, and make it about them

Using these tips will ensure that the personal nature of the event remains in tact while you still manage to learn a bit more about your contact and reconnect with them!