“Small Talk & Networking” for young researchers in Mainz
Written by Chiara
Have you ever found yourself lacking the courage to talk to a conference speaker? Or perhaps you were at a career day where you intended to network with a speaker whose job seemed like an interesting career path, but you weren’t confident of standing out in a big crowd? In both cases, knowing how to introduce yourself or how to engage in just the right amount of small talk could help you make a lasting impression. We therefore organised the virtual career workshop on “Small Talk & Networking”, which gave sixteen young researchers from Mainz and Frankfurt an overview on techniques for mastering the subtle art of networking.
The innovative method of the trainer interposed literary citations and anecdotes to give a clear explanation of how to initiate and maintain small talk. After introducing themselves, participants learnt the most important things to remember for effective small talk.
Create a mental anchor to have your name remembered, like a random fact to link to your name.
Put the name at the end of your introduction, which will set you apart and reveal a creative person by changing the convention of saying it first. There is indeed no second chance to make a first impression.
Open up first in the conversation. if you want others to open up too. For instance, you can allude to some common human experiences (expectations about the conference, presentation anxiety, hopes, plans etc.). Opening up will make you seem more relatable.
Create a distinction between you and your job by talking about yourself rather than what you do. Think of 3-5 random interesting facts about yourself and use them in your conversations to help you create an image and leave a mark.
Keep it short, use sentences of around 10 words. This will enable people to understand and digest the information better, and also make you feel and appear more confident!
Practice Laus urbis (= pray of the city), which basically means you should compliment or praise something specific within the context of the conversation, for e.g. by pointing out how interesting the previous talk was. Making compliments shows that you take an interest in things and makes you look more approachable. However, don’t relativise praises. For instance, “it wasn’t too bad for a beginner“; this would give a negative connotation to the praise (not too bad = not good; beginner = inexperienced).
These are only some of the tips that participants received. N, it is always good to remember that the conversation is not about us, but about the others. The golden rule is to talk 30% of the time, and let the other person talk 70% of the time. Show them interest and ask meaningful and exciting questions! An interesting question makes people think about themselves, which is why participants tried to come up with 10 meaningful questions (see picture) before reviewing the rules of professional networking.
Hopefully, the participants of our course will feel more confident the next time they have the chance to talk to a big shot at a conference or network with a professional for their job hunting.
Written by Chiara Galante; Edited by Radhika Menon. Images: NGC/Design.
We thank the Gutenberg Nachwuchs Kolleg from Mainz University for the financial support in organizing this event.