I don't completely remember the last networking event, how do I gracefully and tactfully act at the next one ?
October 5, 2010 6:44 PM   Subscribe

I don't completely remember the last networking event, how do I gracefully and tactfully act at the next one ?

I am a very recent college graduate. I attended a monthly networking event [the event was relatively intimate, about 20-30 in attendance, food and alcohol were served] about a month ago in a relatively broad professional field in which I am interested (It was the first time that I went to this event). Regretfully, I drank a lot shortly before the networking event (I was at a professional sporting event). As a result, I don't remember portions of the event.

My question[s] are:
What would be the proper responses and reactions to contacts that I made at the last event (I received a couple business cards and I do remember, portions, but not all, of our conversations.) if they ask me about something that we discussed at the last event and I don't remember it (e.g. mention of a volunteer opportunity) ?

I'm thinking that I would not mention last month's event [or any details of it] unless someone else explicitly mentioned it, is my hunch correct ?

(I understand that I made a mistake regarding my alcohol use on that day.)

If you would like to respond off the ask metafilter, I have created a throw-away email: metafilterthrowaway1000@gmail.com

Thank you in advance for your responses.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (10 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Practice the politician's trick:

* Do not say, "It's nice to meet you."
* Do say, "It's nice to see you."

This leaves ambiguous whether or not you've previously met the person. If you haven't previously met them, it sounds fine. If you have previously met them, you don't offend them by revealing you've forgotten that fact.
posted by alms at 7:04 PM on October 5, 2010 [13 favorites]

Don't worry, most of the other people won't remember much either. The reality of business networking events is the only people you really remember are the ones that you had some further contact with. It's no different than running into somebody at a college party that seems to know you, but you don't remember them. You smile, speak in vague terms, and fake it until it clicks or you move on.
posted by COD at 7:10 PM on October 5, 2010 [2 favorites]

Was it your first one? Blame it all on being overwhelmed. You met lots of new people. You were at a pro sports event. There's a lot that plays into you not remembering.

Chances are people will see you and think the exact same things about why they can't remember why they should know you.
posted by theichibun at 7:16 PM on October 5, 2010

COD nailed it.. my memory for ordinary events and nondescript people is terrible. Be vague, talk in generalities, if it's important you'll eventually get a clue.
posted by HuronBob at 7:17 PM on October 5, 2010

Consider it a blessing. You're likely to hear a bunch of the same stories over again anyway. It will be a little less boring than it would be otherwise.
posted by defreckled at 7:35 PM on October 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

I would mostly just approach it as you would any other event. Don't go through it all paranoid that someone might "catch" you not having remembered meeting them. Any given person you meet at this event (whether you're meeting them for the first or you met them at the previous event) is much more likely to have the same worries you're having (alcohol aside), than to be offended if you happen to forget that you met them.

If you do meet someone you met at the last event, I foresee a few possibilities:

1. You recognize them -- turns out you weren't so drunk after all. Good for you. If this happens, which is quite possible, there's no issue.

2. You're sure you met them -- but you're embarrassed at remembering no specific details. This is incredibly common. You've probably been in situations like this before. The fact that alcohol was involved doesn't make it fundamentally different than any other situation. Before going to the party, brainstorm a few ways you could ask vague questions to tactfully draw out info from someone without knowing any specifics in advance.

3. You have a feeling you met them, but you're not sure. This is where phrases like the aforementioned "Nice to see you" come in. You know what this reminds me of? I saw some footage of Bush on C-Span, back when he was president, where he was meeting a lot of military people in rapid succession. Now, follow me here, because what I'm going to say has nothing to do with our political opinion of him. Let's face it: the guy had people skills, and we can learn something from him no matter what you think of his presidency. Back to the C-Span show: I noticed he always said exactly the same greeting: "Good to see you!" "Good to see you!" "Good to see you!" to one person after another. And he always sounded like he really meant it. Incidentally, I also have a friend who met Bush, and told me he was struck by how he seemed totally different from the usual politician who's shaking one person's hand while looking around the room for the next person's hand to shake. My friend said he felt like Bush was totally focused on him and really cared about meeting him. You can make someone feel like they're an old friend and you're really happy to see them, whether or not you've met before. It's OK if this is a little disingenuous: just act like you're really happy to see them and you really care about paying attention to them. Keep it positive and open-ended. If they remember you, they'll probably give you a cue at this point, and they'll already have the feeling you remembered them too. They might even feel like they're reciprocating your recognition. If you two have never met, then ... at least you've made a positive first impression!

4. You have no memory of them, but you did meet them. There's not much you can do to avoid this, since, by definition, you won't recognize these situations right away. I would approach it pretty similarly to how you'd approach someone you were sure you hadn't met. If they give no signal that you two have met, assume you've never met. If they do give any such signal, be ready to quickly pivot from meeting-for-the-first-time mode to "Oh yeah, I thought we had met, but I'm terrible with names -- I'm sorry, what was your name again?" etc. Everyone can relate to this -- they probably won't be offended. It's more important to be graceful and self-deprecating and charming if you do slip up, than to have perfect recognition and memory of everyone right away.
posted by John Cohen at 7:56 PM on October 5, 2010 [3 favorites]

I have a four-part hyphenated name and a substantial (red) facial birthmark and a head of ridiculously curly hair - and I'm terrible with names and faces. The result is that most people I meet say "hi, Sarah!" and I always feel like I'm forced to pretend I even have the faintest clue as to who they are. I'm terrible with this particular social interaction (the only one I handle more poorly is the time-honored classic "gah, what happened to your face?!") It is always obvious I don't know them.

The point is, everyone is apparently socialized to be okay with me not remembering them despite everything above. I have met very few people as memorable as I am, visually, so I doubt the other people will remember you any more than you remember them. Relax.
posted by SMPA at 8:21 PM on October 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

I have a terrible memory for faces and names. Many people do. My personal favorite is an all-purpose, "How's it going?" It works whether you've met the person or not.

It leaves them open to say either "Great, and how have you been since last month?" or "Great, and my name's Sue, nice to meet you." Basically, just deliver the line and then follow their lead.

And I trust you've learned your lesson. No alcohol during any professional activity, or potentially professional activity. And definitely no tailgate party beforehand!

Next time if you find yourself compromised before a networking shindig, just politely bow out with the time-honored "some kinda stomach bug" excuse.
posted by ErikaB at 10:48 PM on October 5, 2010

No alcohol during any professional activity, or potentially professional activity.

Well, I wouldn't go that far...
posted by John Cohen at 11:25 PM on October 5, 2010

One key point is that if you feel the need to apologize for not remembering someone (which isn't necessary, but I know I talk unnecessarily when I'm nervous) you absolutely never ever mention that you might have been intoxicated last month.
Being intoxicated = less than stellarly professional, but no one will deny it happens
Talking about intoxication = (a) boring + (b) 5-star unprofessional
posted by aimedwander at 12:33 PM on October 6, 2010

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