Facilitated Networking & Training for Student/Alumni Mixer with Teresa Thomas
Everyone seems to know the general idea of what to do when you first meet someone, professionally speaking, I mean. Yeah, it's supposed to be natural. Obviously, you're supposed to be polite and confident. And you know what you're supposed to say, right? But does it really happen as you expected?
It is no mystery that I am full of bloopers and faux-pas, I admit that with certain pride and attribute it to being Brazilian. But I'm open to learning and would love to minimize the embarrassing moments I get myself into. (I will not share my personal shame moments at this time, except this once, many years ago, when I meant to say that, in Brazil, I used to live at the beach, to which I mispronounced it and said I lived somewhere else, far less pleasant...)
I just recently have been introduced to the world of networking - I am talking REAL networking. I thought I had it in the bag. I'm quick-witted, far from shy and have no problem communicating. Well, that's not enough. You need to be assertive, you need to be creative and you need to be effective - all in about 30s, according to the "Elevator Speech (or Pitch)".
Luckily, this week, I got to watch Teresa Thomas, a professional connector, present tools, tips and exercises to help the students of the Humphrey School of Public Affairs network with ease. This is the 3rd year the School offered this event to the students with the support of the Alumni and the expertise of Teresa. Humphrey School Career Services staff said it is one of the best things they do for their students and alumni and plan to continue offering it each year.
To begin, we had a warm up session with students only, during which Teresa highlighted the importance of introducing yourself effectively and advised the attendees on planning before heading out into the real world of connections.
Teresa instructs students to know the type of event beforehand, research who will be there and how to tailor your presentation to the potential contacts
Following Teresa's intro, students were given tools and cues on what info to include when formulating their speech. After a brief brainstorm session, the audience was paired to start practicing.
The exercise begins: Teresa created a laid-back environment, allowing the participants to interact with each other and try out different approaches
The second part of the event moved the students to a bigger room and provided them with an experience of networking with the alumni, where they had to work the room and develop a connection with 4 to 5 (never met) people. Larger groups were also encouraged as the room buzzed with new faces.
Students had to meet with at least 4 people during this exercise
Before wrapping up, we had a very fun and insightful Q&A where Teresa cautioned attendees on the "princess" and "bone crusher" hand shakes. She also covered more challenging topics, such as "how to gracefully exit a conversation" and "how to follow up with a person of interest". Participants from different ethnic backgrounds testified on specific cultural behaviors when meeting someone new. I added that we, Brazilians, are touchy people and very personal - always revealing who we are at the first chance we get.
Teresa tells the audience to avoid the "princess" hand shake
Q&A with Teresa Thomas
Teresa's expertise helped students build up on their networking skills while knowing that mistakes always happen and that it is always better to be genuine and flawed than to sound like a robot handing out business cards without developing a meaningful connection.
Keywords: alumni, event, event photography, humphrey school, laine torres photography, networking, student, teresa thomas
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