From “Cringey” Conversations to Connection: Networking with Patti DeNucci


February 13, 2024
A group photo of UT Austin students posing with Patti DeNucci in front of the Kendra Scott Center sign

Students across UT learn networking can get you more than a job

By Neerul Gupta

Half of Austinites feel isolated, a 2018 Cigna study found. The city, home to nearly 1 million residents, doesn’t lack opportunities for community-building. So what’s going on? 

“We’re showing up as somebody different than who we are. We’re not clear on why we’re here, what we want, or who we are,” said Patti DeNucci on Feb. 5. The author of two award-winning conversation and connection books led the workshop “Build Your Conversation and Networking Confidence with Patti DeNucci” for UT students. DeNucci believes striking authentic and meaningful conversations — whether in a 30-minute interview or 30-second elevator ride — opens space for professional growth and personal fulfillment. 

Patti DeNucci leading a networking workshop at the Kendra Scott Center on UT Austin campus
Patti DeNucci leading a workshop in the Kendra Scott Center. Photo courtesy of Neerul Gupta

Students at the event admitted: networking can be “cringey.” However, as DeNucci noted, networking can also be how you enjoy mundane daily tasks, keep your job during layoffs, or even find love. “There’s something beautiful about feeling connected to people around you, as long as you can do it on your own terms. Being able to converse and connect well — it’s the edge we’re all looking for,” she said. During her workshop, DeNucci taught attendees how to find this edge by encouraging conversations within the audience and presenting strategies learned through her 50 years of research. 

While networking requires speaking with someone, intentional networking requires having a conversation with yourself. DeNucci encouraged students to first discover who they are (What energizes you, and what drains you?) and then decide what they want (What purpose do you have walking into a conversation?). Finally, and most importantly, show up according to both. “Intentional networking is going to make your life so much better. You're not going to end up in jobs, relationships, or situations that aren’t right for you,” said DeNucci. “You’ll say yes when you mean yes, no when you mean no.” 

Expert conversationalists project warmth and confidence, but that doesn’t mean they’re taking all or even most of the talking time. “If you’re in a one-on-one conversation, always divide the conversation pie. But remember: listening is the number one priority,” said DeNucci. Successful networkers have questions in their back pocket and can create new ones as they listen and learn. Every point your partner provides is a pathway into their psyche. Follow the trail. 

Throughout the evening, DeNucci asked students, “What brought you here today, and what are you going to do with it?” Students, all of whom entered the workshop quietly and alone, walked out in groups exchanging contact information. 

SDCT helps students across the University cultivate a sense of self in and outside of the workplace. Catch a seat at one of our next events!

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