Sneaking through a networking event

PodCamp Boston 5

Here’s a fun exercise to try at your next in-person marketing event. The difficulty of this exercise scales with how centered on your product, service, or business you are, and its value scales inversely to that self-centeredness. The more you can lose yourself, the more you’ll gain from the exercise. This trick is also an outstanding one for folks who are more introverted and normally struggle at networking events.

See how long you can get through a networking event without giving out any substantial information at all. When asked common questions, use answers like, “Oh, the usual” and then immediately redirect the conversation back to the other person and get them talking about themselves, their work, and their company. Here’s how an example exchange might go:

Eventgoer: Hey, how’s it going?
You: Oh, the usual. What’s new with you?
Eventgoer: Pretty good. So what are you working on these days?
You: Same old stuff. What about you, what’s working for you these days? Are you still at…
Eventgoer: Yeah, I’ve got this project I’m working on right now on marketing metrics and… (conversation continues)

The marketer in you will be screaming inside your head, “TALK ABOUT HOW AWESOME WE ARE”. Resist that temptation strongly. Instead, work the room as a mirror of the people who are in it, asking questions, learning as much as you can, sharing other people’s stories as appropriate. At the end of the evening, see if you have come away with significantly more information and more contacts than you normally do from a networking event. More important, see what kinds of responses you get from people you talk to.

Why this works: people LOVE to talk about themselves and their companies, just as you (as a marketer) love to do the same. We tend to build more favorable opinions of people who listen to us, and we tend to want to keep talking to those people. If we can get out of our own way, the floodgates of information will open for us!

Give it a try!


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  • Rachel Parker

    Thanks, Chris! I actually learned this in a sales training course: see how much info you can gain while giving away as little as possible. At least it keeps things interesting!