You attend a networking event and someone says something that you know is obviously wrong. You have just been introduced to person X and you do not want to get into an argument about the subject. So the real question here is – do you argue your point of view or walk away?!
When networking, you need to keep an open perspective. You may be an expert in your field, but do not forget the whole point of the event. You are there to NETWORK which means that it is NOT about you at all. We are all interested in ourselves and self promotion, but at a networking event, the people who impress us most are the ones who ask questions because they want to know more. By asking questions you are showing that you are interested and thereby appear interesting. We make connections with people who align themselves with our ideas.
If you as the job seeker, entrepreneur, marketer, business developer or idea prospector, ask questions and show true interest (not feigned) then the likelihood of you getting into an argument is small. How does one know that this works? You ask questions to illicit the other person’s point of view (POV). This allows you to express that you have a solution to their problem. The object is to find common ground whereby you can, at a later date, pursue the conversation. Isn’t the point of contacts and networking to talk to the person outside of the current venue about ideas that you both have in common? Why create waves (unless they are Google Waves) when you want to build alliances?
If you are really determined to get your concept across, then develop a strategy ahead of time. This does NOT mean being scripted, but refers to knowing your subject matter inside and out. When you are arguing you give concrete not emotional examples. You need to cite references that are quotable and can be verified. For example, check stats on a particular subject in which you have expertise. Remember that not everything you read on the Net is accurate. A lot on Wikipedia is hearsay and opinion, not fact.
The art of the argument means convincing people in a cogent and logical manner that your POV is important or real. Remember that they want to buy into what you are selling. You need to convince your listener that the idea is not just yours but that it will benefit them. Remember, it’s not about you but really about their needs.
The job seeker who is seeking employment can make the point that their skills are the solution to employer’s problems. The idea is to sell you as the person who minimizes risk, reduces costs and creates profit margins that benefit the company. This is the way to position your POV to win an argument.
At a networking event, when the conversation goes bad and you feel that you need to interject your POV, why not ask a question instead. Ask how they think the idea solves a problem or if they can think of a solution for their issue/problem. Recall a political or religious discussion that you have had that turned into a screaming match. Was the point to yell louder than the other guy to get your point across or would it have been better to find out what the real issue was at hand?
Sometimes it is necessary to walk away. How do you do this and save face? Recall that a networking event is not the place for a full-on argument but the beginning of a relationship that one can nurture and covet. Make sure that you get the person to agree to continue the lively discussion, that you are enjoying (hint at that), over coffee at another time. That is one way for them to remember you and to want to push their own agenda. At the secondary (and sometimes third) meeting, you can try to persuade the person that your point is correct by showing how it will benefit them in the long run. An argument is not lost just because they do not accept your views. They want you to understand what they are saying just as you want them to see your POV. So make sure that you do see their side of the argument.
When you are faced with a situation that is obviously not going in the direction you want, you can solicit some allies to bolster your idea. Networking events are always filled with someone that you know, from somewhere. Even one person whom you know can help you prove your view point. Winning an argument does not mean that you have to cut someone else down. Build them up by asking the right questions to make them think that they came up with the solution or idea on their own.
The art of the argument is to sell a concept, idea, solution or benefit that will cause the other person to react in a positive manner. This way, you become an ally for future reference and a networking colleague whom people will remember.