Happy Networking, Happy Couples

Overcoming Networking Challenges With Your Partner

by Anna M. Gonzalaz, @WebAnna on Twitter

Opportunities to network can arise in almost any setting. But have you ever been at a social gathering and been so involved in making a business connection that you either ignored or paid little attention to your spouse or partner?  How do you handle those awkward moments when you are networking with your significant other?

The higher the position, the more social skills you need to be successful. With more effective communication, your partner can help make you look good in any social situation.

Often when you’re at a networking event, your partner won’t be in the same industry. “What do you do?” is usually how a conversation starts, but it doesn’t have to be where it ends. Too many times I’ve heard conversations end with this question, because the answer wasn’t relevant to the other person. If this is the case with your partner, be prepared with a general follow up question to engage the other person.

You can also invite your partner into the conversation by bringing up a subject they are passionate about. Think about ways to involve your partner in the conversation and make them shine. They will be sure to return the favor.

You can also use your partner’s knowledge as a way to break the ice with someone you’ve been trying to get a meeting with. For example, say a potential client loves the San Antonio Spurs. You may know nothing about basketball, but your partner does. Use this as a gateway conversation.

Make sure before you go to the event you tell your partner who will be there and why they are important to your goals. Then they can expect to excuse themselves from a conversation if they start to hear you talk about work.

It’s all about the signals.

For example, if you ask your partner to please freshen both of your drinks, it’s a signal that you’re about to get pulled into a meeting.

The tricky part for your partner is knowing when to circle back into the conversation. If you’re done with the conversation, catch your partner’s eye and smile. If you avoid eye contact, it means you’re still deep in working out the details.

Signals are also important for exiting conversations. You don’t want to walk away and leave your partner stuck in a conversation. So having the right exit signals, like having your partner gently squeeze your arm, can help avoid an awkward conversation.

Building work relationships is just as important as building personal relationships. Maintaining a balance is key to peaceful partying and networking.

Blanca Gonzalez contributed to this report.