Recap :: Art of the Schmooze 
By Rand Lemley, B.Arch Candidate

On Monday, March 18th, student leaders took part in a networking seminar by Robbie Samuels called Art of the Schmooze. Robbie gave the group a high-energy walkthrough of networking at an event and shared tips on how to form chains of relationships. These tips can help anyone who will be attending events, going for interviews, or meeting anyone at any time.

Robbie is a community organizer and fundraiser with Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD). He also co-founded Socializing for Justice (SoJust) to form a forward-thinking network based on the “philosophy of abundance.” From this experience, Robbie has put together seminars to help others navigate the sometimes awkward situations that arise at big events.
The group was assured that even the most introverted or awkward person can succeed in networking at an event if they know protocol and put forth some effort. Some of the early tips may be familiar: don’t arrive hungry, start and end each conversation with a firm handshake, maintain eye contact, ask open-ended questions. However, Robbie gave the group some pointers that many people do not consider.

1. Arrive at the event prepared for networking. This includes packing and organizing your business cards in a way that they are easy to access. Make sure the information on your card is up to date and, if you have multiple roles, have appropriate cards for the event. These cards should not be dealt like a card game or passed out like flyers. Instead, give your card to someone only after having some time for conversation. Use a transition statement, such as “I’d love to hear more about your work. Will you contact me sometime?” or “I have some work samples I’d like to show you. Would you exchange contact information with me?”

2. Make your group open for others to join in conversation. Robbie acted out what he calls the “bagel” and “ croissant.” A bagel is a closed circle of conversants that does not encourage anyone to join the conversation. He encourages a one-step-in, one-step-out posture that forms a croissant shape and also allows free movement in or out of the group. As people come and go from the group, you are gaining more connections.

3. Know when to end a conversation. Many of us, usually out of politeness, get sucked into long, drawn-out conversations that bore us. Even if the other person can’t read your obvious body language, you can extract yourself easily without causing a scene. Robbie gave two strategies to exit these situations. One is to be direct by saying something like “I’m going to meet a friend,” or “I need to use the restroom. Would you excuse me?” The other strategy is to ask “Is there anyone here you think I should meet?” or “Is there anyone you would like to meet?” These questions build networks while you successfully transition to a new conversation.

Keep these tips in mind next time you are attending a social event. Networking is a skill that can be improved, so be confident that you will leave knowing more people than you did previously. You may just find a new friend, mentor, or job opportunity that takes you farther down your career path.