My Behind-the-Scenes Networking Story

To close out our series on networking, I am going to tell you about my own networking experience this week  and how I implemented the tips I have shared with you over the past few weeks. You can find them here and here. 

The event I attended was the first networking event as a business person rather than an academic or artist.  I was there to promote Acting for Scientists, the website, the live training and coaching services that I offer. Most importantly, however,  my goal was to collect as many business cards as I could so I could begin to cultivate relationships with scientists and engineers in the Norfolk business community.

I walked into the room and I got scared. I looked around and my inner critic, Fran, started pumping my head full of her opinions about how I didn’t belong there, how cheap my business suit looked next to the ones the guys were wearing, what a fraud I was. And that was the scariest thing, here I was in a room full of people with whom I wanted to share my great idea and I was questioning my right to be there.

Spoiler: I didn’t die.

Two super heroes rescued me. The first was a woman, whom I didn’t know, who saw that I was too terrified to move away from the name tag table. She introduced herself and kindly said, “It’s hard when you don’t know anyone.” We chatted for a minute and I was able to find my secret confidence pose, thank Fran for her opinion and assign her a filing task, and remember that I like to be the person who draws others into the networking conversation.

I spotted someone who was looking around for someone to talk to. I asked about his work. I listened carefully. I connected his work to mine and he offered to introduce me to an engineer that he knew would be at the event.
Then I was rescued for a second time by a woman (who will live forever in my mind as my very own Wonder Woman) who works with my husband. She took me under her wing and introduced me to everyone she knew. I collected far more business cards than I hoped. AND I have followed up on every single one of my new contacts. Best of all, I met enough people that at the next networking event  I can be Wonder Woman for someone else! I’m actually looking forward to it. 

I would love to hear your networking story in the comments below.



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Five Ways to Pretend You Are Enjoying Yourself Even If you Hate Networking

In an ideal world a networking event would be run like an old-fashioned dinner party with a host or hostess Photo of 50s hostess in heels, flouncy skirt, and pearls, with a silver tea servicecarefully planning the menu to the tastes of the guests, seating people with similar interests together, elegantly introducing the guests to one another, and rescuing the guests from potentially awkward interactions.

Instead we announce a networking event, order the smallest possible wine glasses, the Photo of a turtle hiding in its shellcheapest wine, and the greasiest appetizers and throw our guests into the mix with the expectation that mentors will magically meet mentees and the seeds for brilliant collaborations will begin to incubate.  Then we end up with a gaggle of poor academics wandering around without enough wall space and corner chairs to hide all of us who would really prefer to be elsewhere.

In my undergraduate’s acting classes, I require students to pretend that they are enjoying themselves. After all, I say, if you can’t even manage to pretend that you like the acting process, how skillful an actor can you possibly be?

Image of theatre masks, one tragedy, one comedy


I give myself the same assignment for networking sessions.  Networking is important for my job and I can’t do it well unless I pretend to be having a good time (no one wants to have a conversation with someone who would evidently rather be wearing her bunny slippers and reading an Agatha Christie novel). The best part is, the more I pretend to enjoy networking , the more I actually do enjoy it!

Here are the five things I do to act like I am having a good time and trick others and myself into actually having a good time:

  1. Dress for Confidence – Wear something that is comfortable and that makes you feel like the most professional and confident version of yourself. Skip the uncomfortable shoes or the dress you have to tug at every time you stand up. Make sure your blazer fits and that you genuinely like your tie.
  2. Photo of Jenifer standing up tallStand Up Comfortably Straight – I plant my feet hips’ width apart and I stand with my weight equally balanced backwards and forwards and side to side. I imagine a hot air balloon is floating the crown of my head up to the ceiling. I make an effort to be my biggest, most open self.Photo of people at summit of mountain
  3. Go Over Your Goals – Remind yourself what you want to get out of the networking session and make a plan for getting it. This blog post will help.
  4. Re-frame Nervousness – I am a shy person and unstructured social situations ALWAYS make me want to throw up.  I tell myself that this nervousness is excitement.  I am about to enter the unknown and I might meet anyone: the person with whom I will win the Nobel prize, the perfect post-doc for my research project, maybe even a fellow Dr. Who fan. Of course I’m excited: the possibilities are endless.  I can deal with some excited butterflies in my stomach.
  5. Be Friendly – Photo of people at a networking event If you see someone too shy to join into the conversation, make an effort to include him or her by asking a question.  Invite people to share a table with you. Comment positively about the food, drink, or the day’s presentations to someone behind you in line.  Introduce someone you just met to a new person who seems hesitant.  This strategy gives you something to do and it focuses you on others’ enjoyment rather than your own discomfort.  You will become a networking superhero and many, many people will be grateful to you.

After years of forcing myself to pretend to enjoy networking events, I finally do enjoy them. You can too!   Let me know how the five steps work for you in the comments below.



Like what you've read so far?
For more FREE tools & FUN tips to help you communicate better and present your research confidently, get our guide: The Top Ten Things You Can Do to Make Sure You Do Not Die During Your Science Presentation and tips sent to your inbox!

Gamify Your Networking : Set Clear Networking Goals

Networking is your job. And like any other part of your job, success is elusive if you don’t have clear goals.Photo of an archery target.

What is the point of the conference networking sessions?

Organizers want attendees to have the chance to build new relationships, begin new collaborations, and evolve new ideas. They especially want early career scientists to benefit as they are the ones who can gain most from meeting new people.

Unfortunately for the shy among us – the networking session is a nightmare. Here we are in a room full of people, all of whom already know each other and we are supposed to “build our network”,  “sell ourselves,” and “share our research.”
One way to set the nightmarish aspect of meeting new people in an unstructured venue is to provide yourself with a structure.

Here’s a fun challenge for yourself, or (even better) your trusted group:

Photo of a scrabble board with people, connections, and ideas on it.

  • Make a list of the people WHO you think will be at the networking session whom you want to meet.
  • Articulate WHY you want to meet each person.
  • WHAT DO YOU WANT from the interaction?
  1. Do you want to inquire about a post-doc?
  2. Learn more about his or her research?
  3. Ask the person for a half-hour informational interview?
  4. Tell the person about your work?
  5. Begin a mentoring relationship?

Here’s how you break this down into easy steps:PPhoto of a white house with a green window and a green door.


Once you have a list of five to seven people you know you want to meet:

  1. Decide how you will introduce yourself to each one and
  2. What question will you ask each one?
  • For example if I want an informational interview with someone who runs a professional development program, I would say something like, “Hi I’m Jenifer Alonzo with Acting for Scientists. I saw you run Innovative Professional Development Program. How did you get that started?”
  • If I were meeting someone whom I might want to come work for me, I might say,  “Hi I’m Jenifer Alonzo. I was intrigued by your abstract and I saw you are finishing your Ph.D this year. What are your plans after graduation?”
3.    Write your questions down, giving yourself time to think about what you will say.
4.     Rehearse it a couple of times. (rehearsal always makes things less scary.)
5.     Now assign points for each person you want to meet:
  • Give the most points to the scariest for you.
  • Give the least points to the easiest person on your list.
  • Also assign a point value for meeting people not on your list.
Photo of people at a networking event6.    Decide what the prize is for meeting your points goal – or for the “winner” in your group.

When I am playing by myself I write down three prizes:

  • A small one for my minimum goal  (special coffee),
  • A medium one for meeting my goal half-way (a new mystery novel), and
  • A big one for meeting my biggest goal (pedicure).
7.    Now that you’ve set the game up, it’s time to level up your networking game.  You now have a goal and a way to measure your success.  
8.    Once your networking session is over, immediately write emails to ALL of the people you met.
9.    Then tally your points and award your prizes.

Follow this formula, and enjoy your NETWORKING success!  You will increase the number of people you know, connect with future jobs, and discover valuable collaborations along the way.  In the meantime, enjoy that pedicure! Photo of a successful woman on the beach, with arms raised in triumph, viewed through a beautiful arched doorway.

Share your results in the comments below.


Jenifer & Adriénne


Like what you've read so far?
For more FREE tools & FUN tips to help you communicate better and present your research confidently, get our guide: The Top Ten Things You Can Do to Make Sure You Do Not Die During Your Science Presentation and tips sent to your inbox!