UCL News


Your personal development: Networking and relationship building

10 February 2016

It is said of some people that they are brilliant at 'working the room'.

party&socialising When you meet this sort of person you find that they give you their undivided attention, as if they came specially to meet you. And yet, they seem to be able to do this with everybody in the room.

One approach is to treat every social occasion, as if you were hosting the event in your own home. In that situation you would probably prepare thoroughly - think about who was coming, help introduce people to each other and generally take care to look after each and every person attending.

What emerges at these events is a bit of a dance as people flow around, sensitive to each other's body language, joining and leaving groups and being socially aware. Fortunately, this dance doesn't require ballet or ballroom training. It's something we can all do quite naturally if we relax and set out to enjoy ourselves.

But it's also clear that certain techniques are worth practising. Many of these involve the ability to build rapport quickly and create a positive chemistry in relationships. These skills will come in handy throughout university life and as you start thinking about your career and professional life when you complete your studies. Here's some top tips for you to consider:

  • Clarify Your Purpose: What do you most want from the situation? Is there someone specific you want to meet?
  • You're Not the Only Shy One: Most people feel shy in these situations. Although we often feel completely isolated and alone, we are in fact 'in the majority!'
  • Observe For a While: Get a drink and see what's going on, identify any groups that you might join (watch the body-language) and, whilst waiting, somebody might well approach you.
  • Be Patient: It's useful just to position yourself at the edge of another conversation between a small group of people. After a while you might find a good reason to contribute to what's going on.
  • Initiate Conversations: It helps if you place your attention on others and use your curiosity to start and maintain conversations.
  • Join a Group: Be sensitive to the tone, pace and energy of the group. Don't steal the conversation away from others. Wait for a moment to join in.
  • Use Questions: Openers that ask people questions about their presence at the event, can be useful: "What brings you here? Is this your first time at this event? What's your contact with (the host)?"
  • Be Curious: Rather than thinking about yourself and perhaps feeling hard-done-by due to the situation, start focusing on the other people and use your curiosity to start up a conversation.
  • Move Around: Having given someone your full attention, politely move on and meet as many people as possible.

This article has been provided by Maynard Leigh Associates. Maynard Leigh Associates are a UK consultancy specialising in enhancing communication skills and building interpersonal relationships. In collaboration with Maynard Leigh, UCL Student & Registry Services will be providing a short series of articles seeking to provide a clearer understanding of communicating effectively and building positive relationships with new people.

Sinéad Dennehy, Student Support and Wellbeing, UCL Student and Registry Services.