As consummate appraisers, real estate agents, mortgage loan brokers, etc., readers of HousingWire are often called upon to network as part of their jobs, be it happy hour or at industry conferences, such as the one going on right now, MBA Secondary.

For me, for the longest time, I dreaded drifting around those crowds, trying not to look pathetic and alone.

And for the most part, I largely failed at that role, preferring to hide behind my keyboard and work, work, work away.

That’s because, although I love writing about real estate agents, loan brokers, appraisers, etc, I really hate to network.

Some of you will read this and say, "But Jacob, you’re the life of the party," and that’s true. But it always took so much more effort than I was willing to admit.

That’s why when I ran across this blog on Inc., I simply needed to share.

Written by motivational speak Joel Comm, the piece is titled “How To Network When You Hate Small Talk.” It’s definitely worth a read, but for those of us who can spare only a moment right now, here’s a quick summary in three easy tips.

1. Prepare

“Small talk is easier when you're with a friend so if you're going by yourself, find someone who can become a friend quickly. If you're going to an event that tells you in advance who will be attending, scan the lists and look for two or three people that you'd really like to meet.” 

2. Can’t find a possible friend? Try to get people to come to you

Comm says this is “easier than walking up to a stranger and trying to start a conversation cold. So if your event needs help, volunteer to lend a hand. It might mean taking part in a panel or if it's a small event, helping with the organization. Once you have a role in the event, people will have a reason to talk to you, and you'll get that first, cold contact out of the way.”

3. Neither of these your style? Think up a few opening lines in advance.

“It can feel a bit awkward but it works... and it works because so many other people find networking difficult. The person you're speaking to will be so grateful that someone's talking to them they'll want to keep the conversation friendly and flowing, and they'll also want to make a friend quickly.”

A possible opening line Comm suggests is “So what do you do?”

That will rarely work in our space, so I suggest some less awkward opening questions.

Instead, try, “Did someone smile at you today?”

Or “Aren’t conference buffets always the worst? The worst, am I right?”

Or my favorite: “I slept through the keynote, did he/she/they say anything important?”

Happy networking, dear HousingWire readers, and remember; the next time you see me at an industry event, approach with caution.

I may just ask you what your favorite color is, that is, if I’m not already busy volunteering with my new friends.