You might call these things “zeroth order skills.”
In the Boston ACS meeting workshop on ‘First
year on the job for industrial positions,’ which
could be for academic and governmental
roles as well, we had a lively discussion.
One question a participant asked: What do you
do when you enter a room full of people and you
know no one?
Well, (1) if you were the speaker, a panel
discussant or other figure, it is not a bad idea to
ask for the organizer or chairperson or host(ess).
Now, the usual case is an (2) attendee entering
a room. There are two or three strategies. Of
course, before entering the room it is not a bad
idea (2a) to visit the restroom and check yourself
in the mirror. Entering the room, one strategy is
(2b) to look for others who are individuals and look
like they are open to your introduction. Similarly,
you can (2c) observe different groups that seem to
be open to accepting new people in.
An alternate approach can be used when food or
drink is being served. One can (3a) approach the
bar or table and “queue up.” While waiting (3b)one
can engage in small talk and introductions, which can
last beyond getting one’s drink.
When entering groups or meeting individuals, it is
not bad to offer compliments, ask non personal
questions or add something to conversations by
keeping things flowing in a positive vein.
In a sense, the is a zeroth order element of networking.
A follow-up question came from a very professional
young lady, “What should I do when people call me
Sean?” “I don’t feel flattered when people call me that
and it is not my name,” she added. “My name is
Shauntrece.“ I can understand this somewhat.
What I might do is offer the following kind of
anecdote. “Once I was in a meeting room and
someone came to the doorway and yelled, “Sean!”
Three guys immediately got up and looked at the door,
I didn’t get up.
I honestly like my given name, Shauntrece,
and feel much better when people use it.
Could you please?”
Offering a more negative comment does not feel
good for either the speaker or the recipient.
Another professional in the room had an unusual
name for America. Her name is Aimee and she
asked how to help people to use it. Another attendee
spoke up offering that these were two of the first
person pronouns in English. So, she might say,
“My name is Aimee, you know like two first personal
pronouns in English, ‘I-me’”
Use what you prefer to be called and give them
a ‘thought hook’.