Networking Tips: Why to Wear Something Unusual

My “Welcome” session at the Creative Freelancer Conference in Boston on June 21 will focus on some new networking ideas and techniques I’ve been devising because, after 4 CFCs, I’ve gotten feedback from attendees that what they need most at the beginning is how-to, practical strategies to try out and, especially, permission to try them out on anyone they come across.

My new ideas this year come from my new favorite book, “The Most Human Human" by Brian Christian, which I would sum up as a book about how not to become a robot.

In it, he talks about conversational techniques that either invite more conversation (like a human) or stop it in its tracks (like a robot). One idea I especially like is about using what he called “holds” — those jewel-toned rubber blobs you see at a gym on a fake rock climbing wall. “Each is both an aid to the climber and an invitation onto a certain path or route along the ascent,” he writes.

It reminded me of the crazy scarf I used to wear to networking events. What I didn’t realize is that there is a principle behind why it works — until I read this book. Christian explains that wearing something unusual provides a “hold” for someone to grab onto. “You give the other people an easy first hold – a simple and obvious way to initiate a conversation with you, if they want.”

So whether you’ll be at CFC next month or are attending any networking event, be sure to bring something unusual to wear – a scarf, a hat, a pin – especially if you’re one of those anxious networkers.

I’m developing a few more ideas about how not to be a robot. Watch for them here…in the meantime, how do you avoid robotic-ness?