Skip to main content

Knowing How to Work a Crowd

I found this short piece in today’s crop of electronic newsletters.

It’s a story about how to work a crowd to build relationships.



Darwin Magazine 

Home > Online Features > Knowing How to Work a Crowd


Knowing How to Work a Crowd

BY Bil l Piecuch

It’s all about the attitude.

Several months ago, I spent two action-packed days leading a

group of IT professionals at a communications seminar. My job

was to coach this group to become better presenters. As I

entered the building to pick up my badge at the front desk,

two people were talking. When I asked the receptionist for my

badge, one man overheard me, immediately approached and

extended his hand. This was Eric from Denver, a participant in

the workshop.

What followed was a brief, perhaps 30-second interesting

“commercial” about him and his company followed by a quick

overview of Denver’s professional sports teams. Then he paused,

looked me straight in the eye as asked: “Bill, how did you get into

this kind of work?” I was flattered.

The two-minute discussion with me created a favorable impression

of Eric. During the next two days, I noted with interest as Eric

greeted, cajoled, introduced and reintroduced himself to dozens of

corporate people — most outranking him. I also noted genuineness

when others responded to Eric. He was obviously liked and soaking

up plenty of useful information.

I was even more astonished at lunchtime on the second day when

the general manager of a large corporate software group asked Eric

to dine with him. When we met following lunch (Eric was 20 minutes

late), I was frankly curious to find out what he, a manager in a faroff

outpost, had in common with the top person in much a larger

organization. Eric smiled and replied, “He just wanted to know what

was going on.”

“How is it that you know so many people?” I asked. He told me that

he truly works at networking because it helps him do a better job.

“How?” I asked.

“Simple,” he responded. “I’m made aware of new products earlier

than most field people, I get the first shot at any new solutions to

client problems, and probably most importantly, I keep positive

visibility that is useful to my career.”

His prescription for better networking was amazingly simple. He laid

out several ideas that he follows diligently. Before each seminar, he

will list those he might meet. Then he’ll jot brief thoughts that might

help them professionally and politically. “Politically?” I asked with

some surprise. “Yes,” he said. “And I will pass along any noncompetitive

information that can really help. I end the discussion by

asking if there is anything that I might provide to help.”

These remarks usually open the door to Eric passing along his own

unique knowledge and expertise to his acquaintances. Being a

software engineer and dealing with a number of high-profile clients

in Denver provides him with credentials as a person to be listened to.

Eric always remembers to be approachable. Seldom did I see him

with a somber, disinterested air. He always approached others with

genuine enthusiasm that seemed attractive. But, probably most

importantly, he always made an effort to talk about their lives first,

never his. “And,” he told me, “I approach networking as a light, fun

exercise. Don’t get so serious.”

Eric confided that when he returns to Denver he will write a personal

thank-you note to those he has met at the seminar. He’ll use e-mail,

fax or a personal letter. He uses a commemorative stamp when

responding with a personal letter: “People really remember receiving

that letter.”

Eric recommends following through on any commitment. “Without

follow through, you lack believability,” he says. When the workshop

was over, I noticed that while others, including me, were scurrying

around trying to get taxicabs to the airport, there was Eric smiling

and waving to me as he was being driven away as a passenger.

So where does informal power reside in the organization? Next time

you’re tempted to downgrade that cheery, pat-on-the back,

energetic person as perhaps being artificial, think twice. If it’s

genuine and natural, there might be far more to reckon with and it

could work to your advantage. Better yet, follow Eric’s prescription

for achieving greater company visibility and you’ll become a master

of informal power.

November 2004

Bill Piecuch is the president of Northstar Public Relations , located in

Ocala, FL. He has been the top public relations executive for three

Fortune 500 firms. Additionally, as an avocation, he has instructed

over 3,500 sessions of the Dale Carnegie and Management Courses.

You can reach him at [email protected].