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Networking – 3 top tips for avoiding small talk

By 25/05/2017September 20th, 2021Business

Sarah Dowzell, Assoc CIPD, COO and Co-founder of Natural HR and busy mum of two reflects on a recent CIPD event she attended.

Earlier this week I attended the CIPD London Future of Work Conference – and my first thoughts? What a welcoming branch!

The thing that struck me most about this event was how open everyone was to networking. I attend many events in the Midlands across the year from Business Networking to CIPD events to Technology events, some which specifically promote business networking. I usually leave questioning if it was actually a good use of my time and thinking “Is it me? Am I just rubbish at holding a conversation?” as it often feels like an event of small talk and awkward conversations, which isn’t the usual characteristic of HR professionals and business owners.

So what was different about this event?

Here are my observations and tips for networking and cutting through the small talk:

1. Focus

Attendees at this event focussed their discussions on what they wanted to hear, what they wanted to achieve from attending and more importantly what that meant going forward for their role and their business. Conversations were relevant, interesting and provided a deeper business connection over regaling the usual name, job title, business type and city of residence. Connections were made based upon similar requirements and ideas over similar personalities and coffee orders.

2. Questions

Question the content of the event, discuss themes, outcomes and speakers. During the breaks at this event, people questioned the content presented, which opened up a lively debate and provided different opinions based on experience, sector knowledge and approach. There was a never an awkward silence and never the need for small talk.

3. Inclusivity

People didn’t just talk one to one then hop over to someone else, they made introductions to other people they knew in the room. We have all been to a networking event and identified who we know and who we want to get to know, but that sometimes leaving you standing alone waiting for an opportunity and wasting valuable time – group introductions provided a livelier conversation, a wealth of introductions and a bigger number of useful connections.

Attending this CIPD event has left me feeling much more positive about attending future events, so thank you to everyone involved, especially David D’Souza, Rosemary McLean, Sarah Harvey, Jacquie Findlay, Dr Sylvana Storey, Gemma Hood, Vanessa Johnson-BurgessRichard Norris and Valerie Rowles it’s a privilege to be part of your professional network.