Imagine yourself at a networking event. You’ve identified some people you would like to meet and want to make the most of those 15 to 20 minutes you spend with them. What many people do, mostly because they are anxious and uncertain, is what is referred to as “catering.” They think making a positive first impression with someone means discussing the things that someone wants to hear.

While many people believe this is the most effective approach, studies recently reported by Harvard University, indicate it actually can be one of the worst.

Why? Because when you try and anticipate what someone else wants to discuss, it just increases your anxieties. Further, you begin to come across as insincere and inauthentic.  

For instance, one of their studies involved entrepreneurs at a networking event looking for potential investors. When the event was over, the researchers asked the potential investors their thoughts on the entrepreneurs they spoke with. They reported that, for the most part, they were uncomfortable with the ones that catered their pitches to meet their (the investor’s) expectations and interests. They felt much more comfortable with the entrepreneurs that came across genuinely, discussed their ideas, and why they believe their ideas could prove to be a good financial venture for the investors.

In another example, one group of students were assigned the role of being employers at a networking event. Another group of students were job candidates looking for a job. Participants in the role of the employer were given some instructions and structure to follow, but for the most part, they were encouraged to let the job candidates handle the conversation. Once again, many of the job candidates catered to what they thought the employers wanted to hear about them. The others were more authentic, asking questions about the job, the company, and discussing their own skills and job history.

In this case, what was uncovered was that the “catering” job candidates, those who discussed what they thought the employers wanted to hear, felt very uncomfortable and awkward. Those that did not cater, however, not only felt more comfortable, but the students playing the role of employers said these were the people they would most likely hire if this were a real-world situation.

Other problems the researchers uncovered when people try to cater at a networking event included the following:

  • Often they are wrong. They predict the person they are meeting wants to hear or discuss something, but often that is not correct.
  • They are unconvincing. Even if the catering person is right, and does discuss something the other person wants to discuss at a networking event, they often come across as unconvincing, even deceitful.
  • Their discomfort shows. The more the caterer talks, the more uncomfortable they become. The listener sees this, and they too become uncomfortable listening to the caterer.

The conclusion for cleaning contractors: When attending a networking event, you will be much more relaxed and make a far better impression if you just be yourself. This is the best first impression you can leave someone.

Ron Segura has over 45 years of experience in all segments of the professional cleaning industry including ten years as Manager of Janitorial Operations for Walt Disney Pictures and Television. To contact him, call 650-315-8933.