How To Network & Socialize Effectively: A Comprehensive Guide
by Antonio Centeno
Art of Manliness
is brought to you by Chivas
I was invited to attend a whisky-tasting event in Chicago hosted
by Chivas Regal. As part of their Chivas
Brotherhood, they have an 1801 Club in which members get access
to exclusive, invite-only events at private venues in major US cities.
I had the privilege of checking one out and hob knobbing with a
bunch of folks I had never met before.
the fact I write about style and own a custom clothier, I rarely
go out and socialize. Being a father of three young children and
living in a small Wisconsin town…well, it just doesn’t happen.
put it bluntly – I really had to prepare for this!
is based off my experience and lays out the steps I took to ensure
my time spent out on the town was worthwhile.
scenario: You’re in a large city, heading to an upscale evening
social event. You’re attending the event alone, and you know no
one prior to arriving. There is alcohol being served, yet you will
be speaking with people about business opportunities.
This is my
advice on how to prepare for a night of networking and socializing,
and how to make the most of this opportunity. In order to bring
all the information together in one place, and create a comprehensive
guide, I’ve included new information we haven’t covered before,
a review of some important things that we have, and links to past
articles for those who want more details on a specific subject.
Hope you find it helpful.
You Go: Basic Logistics
Any Boy Scout
knows you should always be prepared. That goes double when you’re
traveling. It’s not just a sensible safety precaution, it’s
also part of your good impression — being able to show up
on time, get yourself back safely, and even provide directions or
a ride if someone else needs it. This immediately makes you look
like the guy everyone wants to know.
With that in
mind, here are some basic steps to review before you depart:
Know Where You’re Going
This one should
be fairly obvious, but know where you’re meeting people. With
Google maps, there is no excuse for not quickly verifying the address
you have and calling the establishment to ensure they are where
they say they are and are open when you plan to arrive. You do not
want to arrive at the event 10 minutes early only to find you mistakenly
wrote down the wrong address and now have to travel back across
is the starting point, and here are a few other details you may
need to know depending on what sort of event you’re attending:
options (valet, parking ramp in the building, separate garage,
street parking, etc.)
- Public transit
options (check for nearby bus and train lines)
streets (know about ‘em BEFORE you end up circling the block)
hours if relevant
If you think
the event will wrap up reasonably early and there’s a chance
you might want to continue socializing afterward, also check for
other venues like restaurants and bars in the immediate vicinity.
a lot of power in being able to say, “Well, if we want to
keep talking about this over drinks, I know a decent little bar
around the corner.”
Know How You’re Getting Home
This is almost
as important as getting there — and can be harder, since options
tend to dwindle as the night wears on.
Have a plan
for getting yourself back to wherever you’re staying, and
have a plan with some flexibility in case the night takes an unexpected
turn. It’s good to have as many resources on hand as possible:
If you have your own car, that takes care of most of the thinking
most of the time. You need to know where you can park it, and
for how long, but as long as you can sort that out you’re
pretty well taken care of. Just watch how much you drink!
No matter how you’re getting there (even if you’re
driving), it’s never a bad idea to have the number of a
local, licensed cab company written down in your wallet or programmed
into your phone. Pick one that dispatches 24/7 so that you always
have an emergency option.
transit: Often the cheapest way of getting around a city,
it’s also the trickiest for non-natives. Look up the route
information online, rather than relying on brochures or bus stop
postings — those tend to be outdated and may not list the
correct times. Be aware that most routes do not run 24/7, and
those that do usually run less frequently late at night.
It’s severely underrated, but often the easiest way to get
around a city, so long as you’re not going too far. Just
have a good sense of safety and don’t walk anywhere too
deserted or dicey-looking at night, especially if you’re
A little preparation
goes a long way here, and smartphones make it even easier (as long
as you can get service). Be sure to have both the city’s public
transit schedule or map and the number of a cab company at bare
minimum. It’s rare that you won’t be able to get yourself
around using those in a pinch.
Know the Environment
Both the physical
and the social environment are important here. Both help determine
how you’ll dress and how you’ll travel.
In New York,
wearing a stylish suit and taking the subway makes total sense.
In Denver the suit is overkill and you can probably walk everywhere,
at least downtown. In Los Angeles, you won’t wear a tie, and
you’ll probably have to drive. And so on.
There are three
basic factors to consider when traveling to a new city:
This determines what you’ll pack in terms of outwear, rain
protection, and so on. Don’t show up to Seattle without
an umbrella, and don’t show up to Houston with one!
This can be hard to judge, but in general, large cities (and the
East Coast as a whole) tend to be dressier and put more emphasis
on style. Smaller cities, especially ones that are big convention
hubs, tend to have more conservative, business-oriented styles,
and the West Coast is famously casual.
If you’re staying in a little resort town and not going
more than five blocks from your hotel, you can dress more adventurously
than if you’re staying in downtown New York and meeting
people all over the city; if you find yourself dressed inappropriately,
you can simply abscond to your hotel, change, and return with
no one knowing.
All of these
are common-sense decisions that you make before you go. But they’re
decisions that make a big difference in how natural and comfortable
you look when you arrive at your event.
Preparation: How to Be Ready for Success
Making a good
impression is nine-tenths being ready to make a good impression.
The rest is just acting natural.
You want to
show up to any kind of social event (even one that isn’t specifically
billed as a networking or meet-and-greet event) with the basic supplies
and preparations that will make a good impression and get your contact
information out there:
Know Who Will Be There
Have as good
a sense of the guest list as you can. Check to see who is on the
e-mails or website or just ask around if it’s a more casual,
Once you know
who is going to be there, do some research if you don’t know
them all that well. You’ll want to know who is representing
what companies, and what that company has been in the news for lately
— people are always very impressed when you can say, “I
saw your latest project in the news last month,” or something
to that effect.
For my Chicago
whisky-tasting event – I managed to get an early look at who
the evening’s special guests were. Turns out one of my favorite
men’s style authors, Tom Julian, was going to be in attendance.
I had reviewed one of his books over a year ago, and pulled up the
thank you he had sent me and sent him a quick message just mentioning
I would be in attendance. Sure enough, we ran into each other and
were able to meet in person. See the picture below for proof!
A good sense
of the guest list gives you the ability to plan your small talk.
Know what’s going to be of interest to the other people there,
and plan on saying it. For a refresher on networking in general
– make sure to visit this classic
Art of Manliness article.
Carry Business Cards — Plenty of Them
than you think you’ll need. The only thing worse than not
having a card at all is saying, “Here, let me give you my
card,” and then coming up empty-handed.
wallets can only accommodate five or ten spare business cards before
the pockets start to get a little stretched, so don’t be shy
about keeping an extra stack in an inside jacket pocket. Or, slip
them in a small, silver card case or cigarette case, giving you
a small, classy touch every time you reach for a card.
Have a business
card that suits your professional needs:
- Always include
your personal name, even on a company card.
- Have your
personal number on the card, not a general phone line.
- Spring for
heavy stock — the cheapest cards are recognizable as such.
- Avoid extensive
graphic designs. Keep it simple.
men in specific industries may need something fancier — if
you’re a graphic designer, you may want to use a card you’ve
designed as an example of your work. Just be aware that it’s
easy to cross the line from “unique” into “novelty,”
and that the latter isn’t impressive.
No need for
business cards? Consider calling
Carry a Pen. In Fact, Carry Two.
Asking to borrow
a pen is automatically unprofessional. Carry two, either in the
inside breast pocket of a jacket if you’re wearing one, or
in the side pocket of your trousers. Go ahead and slip them all
the way in, especially if you’re keeping them in an outer
pocket — the clips on the side of the cap shouldn’t
be visible outside your pocket.
not necessary to spring for a $100 fountain pen (though if you have
something like a Montblanc, go ahead and make use of it!), but avoid
carrying anything that’s obviously cheap, like a bendy, plastic
Bic or a hotel freebie. You can get away with plastic, but it should
be plain, dark plastic without any obvious logos on it.
out for metal-cased ballpoints at the very least. You can get them
from office supply stores for under $20, or you can buy a nicer
one from a brand like Fischer online, and the difference they make
in your first impression is significant.
You carry two,
obviously, in case one runs out of ink (or gets misplaced). Again,
it’s all about avoiding awkward moments. Similarly, keep them
tip-down in your pocket if they’re ballpoints (unless it’s
a space pen, of course) so that you don’t have to make a bunch
of little circles to get the ink flowing before you write.
Silence Your Cell Phone — And Check It in Private
etiquette is not an esoteric question anymore. Almost everyone has
one, and you don’t want to be seen as being “one of
those cell phone guys” who is always flicking away at the
- Keep the
phone on silent, or at least on vibrate, and use it as little
check or answer the phone while in conversation, even if it buzzes.
- Excuse yourself
to someplace private to make a call.
- Wait until
after the event to text or check news/scores, unless urgent.
- Use the
phone for urgent business only. Don’t check e-mail or games!
nothing wrong with using the phone if you have to, so long as you
do it discreetly — just limit yourself to actual needs. Unless
you’re counted on for round-the-clock instant access, letting
your texts and e-mails go unanswered for a few hours should not
be the end of the world.
Presentation: How to Dress and Behave for Success
There are whole
books written on dressing for business and for social occasions,
but it all comes down to a couple basic principles: looking neat,
looking appropriate for the occasion, and behaving politely.
is a deliberately broad term here. It means that no matter what
standard of dress you’re at or what culture you’re in,
you look well put-together and like you’ve paid attention
This is fairly
easy to achieve, whether you’re wearing a suit and tie or
just jeans and a work shirt. It’s more a matter of avoiding
obvious mistakes than doing any extra steps:
- Wear clean
clothes that match well — no clashing colors, wrinkles,
shoes and press
shirts ahead of time for a crisper look.
- Get a trim
if you haven’t had a haircut recently.
- Trim your
nails and wash your face before going out.
- Add a bit
of cologne if you like, but keep it light and mild-scented.
a pocket square if you wear a jacket.
- Wear a dress
watch (leather or metal band; metal case).
- Shower a
few hours ahead of time, with enough time for your hair to dry.
These are minor
details that make a major difference. Putting them all together
is what gives you the sharp-edged, clean-cut look that a lot of
men lack in their day-to-day lives. It’s a way of looking
good that doesn’t show off or try too hard, and gives you
the air of casual competence and confidence you need to network
the rest of the article
© 2012 The Art of Manliness