This week I attended a training event on business networking at the local Chamber of Commerce. The presenter was sharing advice on how to effectively work the room. At one point, she asked if any of us attendees had networking tips of our own. After a couple of other people gave their input, I raised my hand. “Sometimes when I’m introducing myself, I’ll include a fun fact like ‘I’m originally from a town called Hicksville,’ or ‘I’m fluent in Swahili.’ It’s typically well-received, especially at conferences during a long day of networking. It’s fun and people are more inclined to remember me or introduce me to their colleagues.”
“Huh, you’re a bit kooky,” the presenter said with a laugh before moving on.
My head reactively sank in embarrassment. I had just moved to town and this was not how I wanted to be labeled in a room full of local community leaders and business owners.
The irony of having made a bad impression in a networking class was not lost on me.
I attempted to speak with the presenter at the end of her talk, but other attendees were already grappling for her attention. So instead, when I got home, I crafted an email to her. I thought of one genuine compliment I could share about the presentation. Then I informed her of my favorite networking advice on why you need a bio now. I said that it helped a new connection know me and what I’m about. I thanked her for investing her time in sharing her expertise and signed off. At the end, I inserted my professional short bio:
“Jackie Adams earned her Bachelor of Science in Computer Engineering from Case Western Reserve University. She is the founder of Ristole, an engineering consulting company which transforms corporations through employee development and organizational change management. Jackie is an IEEE senior member and a Board Member for the Colorado Science and Engineering Fair. For her professional achievements and philanthropic efforts, she has received local and national recognition including Top 40 Under 40, Outstanding Young Alumni, Entrepreneurial Achievement Award, and Outstanding Women in Business.”
Within hours, I received an email back from her saying she loved this idea of including a bio. She requested permission to include my own bio in her next presentation. She also invited me to two events in the area and sent an email introducing me to three business leaders in her network. Of course, she included my bio at the end.
It would have been the easiest thing to write off this person. I could have chosen to verbally spar with her in response to her offhanded comment or run away after the event in a huff. Instead, I opted to try another approach. I intentionally pushed aside my wounded pride to show that we both could benefit from this connection. As a result, she learned something new in her area of expertise and I gained a well-connected ally. That’s not just rising above failure, that’s flourishing, baby!
Jacquelyn Adams, an IEEE Senior member, is a nationally-recognized leader in employee learning and development. Jacquelyn is the CEO and Founder of Ristole, a consulting business that transforms corporations through engaging employee training. Find more of her Lessons on Leadership columns here.