ALICIA WANGARI JN

Small Talk While Sipping White Wine

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My activist friend invites me for an event to support her course. It’s the second time round and I don’t think missing is in the best of my interests. I hate being known as that girl who never keeps her promises. I arrive ten minutes into the program. They’re a handful of people and I spot some girlfriends. With them is a gentleman in a fancy cubanic grey blazer – a little overdressed. He piques my interest all the same.

It’s always good to be fashionably late but better if you are on time. The first people at a function set the agendas and once you come in with your expensive heels and makeup it’s hard to gel. I get to catching up with my friends who I haven’t seen in a minute.  They introduce me to the blazer guy who turns out to be in the same profession as myself. We talk about the different concepts we developed for a similar product.  We laugh at our shared experiences micro-managing everything and everyone.

By the time the event is starting we grab a seat next to each other and continue to lightly chat. I discover he gets a huge chunk of his business from a company abroad and is sent to different nations in Africa for assignments. He mentions he’s recent assignment was in Morocco. As a travel buff, I’m fascinated. We talk about travel destinations we’ve been to and automatically break the ice.

As the event wraps up the cocktails and bites arrive. On my second glass of wine I’m more jovial. A former colleague joins our table. He takes a minute to remember our engagement and is super excited. I laugh as I remember how he’d call me at 2am in the morning for the itinerary instead of checking his Email. I indulge him a little then go back to the blazer guy. I’m also feeling more confident at this point. I express interest in his customers abroad and interestingly enough he gives me their contacts and suggests we partner and do something for them together.

“Can I have your number… it’s ringing, ends with 21… perfect…”

You’ll find that saving a number as opposed to a business card is much more interpersonal and keeps the conversation flowing longer. As the interactions get going, my head starts spinning and is my cue to leave.  I get on my phone to get an Uber and bid the blazer guy goodbye. For me, that’s a contact to watch, for business reasons or otherwise.

These last few months I’ve learnt that while networking, you have to take it slow; otherwise you come across as an overbearing salesman.

I would compare this kind of easy networking to the different bases in dating. Base one is when you meet a guy for the first time; it’s considered a no-no to give him a full history of yourself. You start with the basic stuff; hobbies, interests and work life. It’s never that serious, no one has anything to prove or lose at this juncture. On second base, it means you’ve met again because you like the connection. Here is a chance to go deeper into your date’s family life, ex’s maybe and at the end of the night there might be a lingering moment of sorts. Third base is a whole different ballgame; it’s the first indicator that you are ready to invest. For the purposes of censorship let’s not get into that.

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