Networking doesn’t have to be awkward. Here’s how to do it

I sat across from Carlos Davis at JJ’s Red Hots in Ballantyne at a table piled with napkins and loaded baked potato fries, his toddler son’s sippy cup and my own shame for being seven minutes late for our interview.

It was messy — but networking events don’t have to be.

Davis of Stand & Deliver LLC is the founder of Charlotte Networking Week (the free, second-annual gathering is Jan. 19-23). Three minutes into our conversation, I realized my perception of the purpose of local networking events (to make new friends, drink a drink and maybe hunt for your next job) was misguided. That’s probably why I haven’t been going to many of these outside of #InstabeerupCLT.


But Davis, author of “Open Says ME!: THE system that can open any and all opportunities in your career,” said service to others in the room should actually be the mentality. “Everyone has a value, everyone has a skill set, everyone has a talent,” he said. “Why not give it? You want to come off as a resource, not as a used-car salesman.”

Networking events are not about instant gratification. They’re about the big picture, about creating a positive image around yourself. “It’s about how fast someone can recall you when your industry comes up,” Davis said.

stand and deliver

Now for the lightning round. Davis answers those questions raging through your mind at a networking event:

The conversation I’m in is falling flat. Save me?

“Ask more questions. Listen more. Talk less.”

Give compliments — yes or no?

“Yes.” Compliment a tie, a pair of earrings, an amazing idea.

But how will I know if I’m going overboard?

“Oh, you’ll know. The look on the other person’s face will tell you.”

Thoughts on me telling jokes?

“Only if you’re good at them.”

What should I actually have worn to this?

Look at it this way: “If I’m overdressed, I’m never under-dressed.”

I’m trapped in this conversation and I need to meet other people. Which way to  a graceful exit?

“Set an appointment to continue the conversation later.”

I’m social media-ing on my phone. That’s kosher, right?

Until: “People are trying to talk to you and you’re saying, ‘Hold on.'” Try the one-and-done approach.

What to do with this fresh collection of business cards in my pocket?

“Make sure a follow-up happens. If you’ve got a phone number, call it.” Within the next 24-48 hours.

How should I talk to someone my own age here vs. that head honcho to my left? 

“You should treat everyone as people … everyone is an equal.”

As for this drink in my hand…?

“You don’t want to be the lush … compose yourself in a way that’s positively memorable.” But do hold a drink — whether that’s a water or a beer.

How often should I go to these things?

“At least once a week. There’s always something happening in Charlotte.”

Show up.