By Mitchell Friedman, Associate Dean of Career Development and Student Affairs
I’ve been to countless business, professional, and other organizational meetings throughout my career. I’m at ease as I enter these diverse contexts, a reflection of increased self-assuredness not to mention a broad network that leaves me confident that there’s a better than average chance I will encounter someone I know regardless of the setting.
But it hasn’t always been that way. I often felt anxious at the thought of entering a room full of strangers, not to mention some fear about whether or not I truly would fit in.
I’ve seen that many students struggle with these same issues when faced with the prospect of attending events. I’ve proposed various approaches to deal with these concerns, including attending events with a friend, reaching out to someone who is alone, and even standing by the bar or food to increase the chances of a conversation with a stranger.
Yet above and beyond the indispensable planning and preparation each of us can do in advance of networking efforts, I’ve found that there’s nothing more valuable for ensuring that such anxieties are muted than being greeted by one or more individuals representing the entity sponsoring the event.
I’m talking about one or more event hosts greeting each guest with a smile, thereby extending a warm welcome. This greeting often includes a brief exchange of personal information, directions to seating, coffee, and/or food, and even an introduction to another attendee.
Moreover, I’ve seen that being greeted by a warm smile and friendly demeanor can’t but “break the ice” and encourage even longer conversations – and potentially deeper, longstanding connections.
Seeing how much being greeted has meant to me over the course of my life, I typically volunteer for such duties whenever I can as one very small way of sharing my experience and enthusiasm. The first impression speaks very loudly, and I want to be in a position to ensure it is done right. The greeter role, and the greeting itself, might be minor to some, but for me they make a huge difference for ensuring a successful gathering and with that the long-term viability of the sponsoring organization. Perhaps more importantly, it’s a phenomenal way to serve the organization while polishing skills and building a network.