How do you build professional connections when you can’t stand being around people? How do you network effectively when social situations make you feel like a fish in a frying pan? A panel on doing exactly that was held at the PAX East gaming convention back in April. The hour-long talk was mostly aimed at people working in and around the gaming industry, but also featured some sage advice from professional magician and face of Penguin Magic, Nick Locapo.

Note: You might also recognize Genii Online editor in Chief, Susan Arendt, at the podium. I feel I should mention that, with her being my boss and all.

Locapo makes a lot of helpful suggestions throughout the discussion, but really comes into his own at the 25 minute mark, when he starts talking about how he approaches audiences in the wild. Basically, he lies. He often tells people he only has time for a quick trick or two, giving him an excuse to bail if things aren’t going well and making his potential audience less defensive now they know they won’t be wasting hours of their time if the magician they just met turns out to suck.

He chimes in again at the 44 minute mark with some good advice about creating a positive experience first and then following up with the actual networking later on. There’s very few things more annoying than someone pumping you for career advice or promotion thirty seconds after they’ve introduced themselves. Instead, Locapo uses magic and comedy to make himself memorable, then follows up later via email. That might sound a bit manipulative on paper, but a lot of people really struggle with striking a balance between networking and being that guy who looks at everyone in the room like they’re a rung on his personal career ladder. Having a hard and fast rule about how long you wait before following up with a potential contact can help you avoid being that guy.

And you really want to avoid being that guy.