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Why Croissants Are Essential To Better Networking, According to Expert Dorie Clark

Earlier this week in London, I had the privilege of attending Thinkers50, a biennial conference and awards for leading management and business thinkers. Drawing nearly 600 academics, executives, and business coaches, many of whom are also best-selling authors, my mind was blown by all the great conversations at Thinkers50, It was like two days back at college! Getting to meet some of my heroes––check out the list of winners––was an added bonus! In a series of posts, I’ll be sharing highlights from my favorite talks.

Dorie Clark speaking at Thinkers50 in London
Dorie Clark speaking at Thinkers50 in London

You know I love a “meta” theme, networking was the topic of our first hertelier networking event in London in June. So, imagine how thrilled I was that Thinkers50 had a networking talk, right before the first networking session–and it was led by one of my favorite business and management thought leaders, Dorie Clark!

Dorie is an expert at self-reinvention and helping people make changes in their lives. She has written several several books on personal branding and has guest lectured and taught at universities around the world, including Harvard, IE Business School in Madrid, and currently teaches at Columbia Business School.

Network Better By Putting Others First

A self-described introvert, Dorie began by saying even extroverts can struggle with networking, “since COVID, we’re all a little out of practice.” She offered up practical strategies for networking, all with the underlying theme of putting others first. By focusing on making others more comfortable, you will relax too, and feel more comfortable talking to anyone.

Emily Goldfischer with Dorie Clark
Emily Goldfischer with Dorie Clark

Dorie Clark's 7 Tips to Connect with Others

  1. Be the host. One way to get out of your own head is to make a welcoming environment for others. When she moved to New York, Dorie didn’t know anyone and started by hosting small dinners to meet people. This worked and was based on solid advice from her mom, “The best way to get an invitation is to give an invitation.” You could also do this at a coffee shop or bar, but the idea is you instigate the gathering and look after the others.

  2. Find the commonality. How do you quickly build rapport? Make finding something in common as a way to connect. Then build on it.

  3. What are you working on right now? What have you been up to lately? This is a common ice breaker you may get from others, Dorie advises to be prepared for that question. Have the answer in your back pocket ready to go, and be ready to ask the same of the other person.

  4. Get a wingman. Go to events with a colleague or friend, let the other person talk about you to other people. Offer to do that for the other person, essentially becoming each others spokesperson. Nothing like an endorsement from a third party!

  5. Don’t be a bagel, be a croissant. Wait, what? When you are at a networking event, don’t form a complete circle. Make a croissant shape with an opening to let others in. Especially when you are in a group, always have an eye out to welcome in someone standing on their own.

  6. Nail your opening line. People like to talk about themselves, so be prepared with a few questions to ask that are current. "What are you most excited about right now? What’s the coolest thing you are working on? How do you spend most of your time?" If all else fails, honesty works, too. “I don’t know anyone here. Can I talk to you?”

  7. Wait a year before asking a favor of a new contact. If you ask too soon, you won’t get anything. Build the relationship first. Once you are friends, things take care of themselves because friends want to help each other. Bonus tip: when at a conference tie up the back of your name badge lanyard to make it about two to four inches shorter. This makes it easier for others to remember your name!

Final thoughts: Be more curious and be more humble. Have the sincere belief that every other person has something they can teach you. And don't forget, when in a group, be a croissant!


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