Tom Cassidy

Tom Cassidy is one of our senior communication skills coaches and he owns the Networking Space. Tom not only teaches and coaches Networking skills to professionals but he makes networking look like an art.

The reason so many of us hate networking and are bad at it is because we don’t know how to do it properly. We are negative about networking because the majority of us dislike small talk and talking about ourselves. In this month’s spotlight Tom is going to give us some advice on how to be a more effective networker.

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When approaching new people, if you appear calm and confident they will relax and know that it is okay to talk to you.

Produce your hand to shake theirs and pronounce your name clearly while looking them in the eye, not for too long though. It’s important to relax so that you can be present and hear their name and what they say.

You can ask a question that engages them in conversation.

You can say something interesting about yourself that opens up a good conversation. This way they will relax and open up to you and you can continue the conversation. Try to be more interesting than just talking about the weather.


One of the hardest things about entering a room where you are supposed to talk with people you don’t know is approaching groups who are already talking.

Look for people who are on their own, because they will be willing to engage with you in conversation and will appreciate been engaged.

If there are only groups talking, look for the opening in groups. Often there will be spaces for you to come and join in, especially in twos and threes. Any group larger than three will often be closed and therefore hard to approach.

Enter the conversation by saying who you are and open the conversation with a light opener like how do they know each other. This respects the fact that they are already talking and indicates that you want to join and you are not a threat. Smile and be courteous, this is a good time to be humble without being shy. Show that you are listening and interested, pay attention and engage the group in interesting topics of conversation.
Practice allows you to develop the best topics that often engage people well.


Most people find it pretty difficult to talk about themselves and their achievements in a positive way. We are trained to be humble and modest and there is a negative connotation linked with showing what you have done really well. Also when we observe other people who do this well, we think that they look egotistical. Therefore we shy away from looking the same way and worry that others will see us in a negative way if we are seen as “blowing our own trumpet” or showing off.

There are ways to do this in a more comfortable way. First of all finding other people who are advocates for you is a great way to get people talking about you and what you do. We are far better at selling other people and their achievements than we are at doing it for ourselves. So if you can find people who you can trust to talk about you in a positive light with the right people then make sure that they have up to date information about what you are working on and how important it is to the cause of the organisation. They will show others how you are working and that you are doing a great job. The pay-off for them is also that they get to look good by being positive about you.

Secondly finding things that have made a difference and emphasise how they helped, without being specific about your role in it; you can show details that only someone very close to the process would know that they are important. By giving these interesting insights, statistics, knowledge then people will use this in other meetings, which will reflect well on you.

Finally there are ways to avoid talking about it. Sending emails to people, or writing frequent communications, blogs or business updates show what you are working on and how they are helping, without you having to talk about it. This is a great way of getting into people’s minds when you are feeling unsure or shy about talking outright about it.


How do I exit a conversation?
Sometimes some people feel guilty about leaving conversations and have to excuse themselves to get away for example “I’m going to get another coffee, or going to the toilet or I must go and speak to that person.”

The best ways of leaving conversations is being honest. If you want to talk to them again then give your contact details and tell them that you are going to meet some more people. If you don’t want to talk to them again then be polite and say that you are going to network with more people and that it was great to meet them.

The final way to move on is to bring someone else into the conversation and then leave them to make the connection together. This is known as ‘park and ride’ and if you watch effective networkers they are very good at moving through the room making connections between people.

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The Financial Times Guide to Business Networking

- By Heather Townsend

The Financial Times Guide to Business Networking is your definitive introduction to a joined-up networking strategy that really works.

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