Despite the health risks, people still smoke. Humans probably started smoking the day after they discovered fire. But cigarettes aren’t perceived as cool anymore. Cinema audiences used to look forward to stunning commercials showing off the glamorous world of Peter Stuyvesant, the no-nonsense Camel man or the exciting lives of a Gunston smoker. How many people started smoking JPS after watching Lotus’ Formula One car in the ‘70s?
Smoking is now banned in many places and lighting up on a plane gets you arrested. Still, there are smokers all over the globe and their club is alive and well (and also smoky and smelly) – but getting entry into the club isn’t difficult. Whatever your feelings towards smoking, it does provide a ‘captive audience’ for you to tap into.
The first social media
There’s a reason it’s called social smoking. Cigarettes are the original version of Facebook – when you had to step outside for a smoke to catch up with others – except your social circle was a lot smaller back then.
So it’s bad for your lungs, but it can be good for networking.
Smoking is a social lube, you’re usually dealing with people taking a (ahem) breather. Their guards are lowered and they’re often more open to conversation.
Pro tip: If someone’s pacing around chain-smoking while they shout at their banker on the cellphone, they’re probably not enjoying downtime. Come back later.
Smoking provides you something to do with your hands, besides playing with your mobile phone… perhaps that’s the thing, our hands need to be kept busy. It’s known to create perceived positive effects on psychological well-being – many people feel more at ease with a cigarette in hand.
Excuse to chat
Especially in a work or conference setting, where you have a collection of likeminded people. Ordinarily, you can’t just walk up to someone and start talking about the weather or news, or interrupting someone reading their cellphone, asking if you can share their bandwidth.
Nowadays, standing in a circle while everyone checks their Instagram feed is a new form of the smoking circle – except it’s probably less social.
Hell, you don’t even have to smoke it. Just stand there and fit in. Give the smoke back after everyone heads back into the conference room. Except you now have a few more business cards.
The smoky smell of success
Many smokers nowadays feel like outcasts. This creates an inner circle mentality, where smokers identify with one another over a shared hobby. Just like strangers on bikes can strike up a conversation about riding.
Infiltrate the club like Donny Brasco infiltrating the mob – pretend to be one of them. (Just don’t snitch on them.)
You’ll also find that there’s scope to meet often, creating a routine – depending on how much smoking goes on.
Smoking hot tips
Like a Boy Scout or Girl Guide, be prepared; even if you don’t smoke, carry a lighter.
Use a vape pen if you must.
If you’re quirky, travel with your own hookah pipe. It’s impractical, but it’ll get you noticed. “Hey it’s that guy with the hubbly-bubbly, he was at last year’s seminar… we should catch up!”
Make sure you know your local slang, keep it general. Use the international hand signal for ‘have you got a smoke?’ – which is holding two fingers up to your mouth, pretending to hold a cigarette. For someone who doesn’t know the term, asking to ‘bum a smoke’ from them could cause some tension.
You can always use ‘stopping smoking’ as a way to get into the network – even if you don’t smoke. Say you’re trying to kick the habit and just want to join the circle for a passive smoke. Or become a support for those trying to stop.
Smoke breaks are an ideal place to try leftfield icebreakers – there are many fun bar bets that involve matches, lighters and cigarette packs. Check out these icebreaker options at Coolfidence.
Risky team building
You don’t have to pay an events company huge amounts for a team building event – just pay the price of a pack of smokes, or a single smoke from the newspaper vendor if you’re on a budget.
This kind of team building leaves people with their hair down, speaking more candidly, open to meeting a diverse range of people.
As the old saying goes, where there’s smoke, there may be smoked salmon. Don’t alienate smokers or waste their hard-earned smokes. We are not big on smoking at Coolfidence, but we believe in live and let live, and we also believe in not missing an opportunity to miss an opportunity. If a few puffs is good for networking, then by all means light up. It often brings people together. Join as a passive smoker, but an active networker. And remember, like Bill Clinton taught us, you don’t have to inhale.