Well, now that you’ve figured out which network event to go to and you’ve dragged yourself there, you stand alone in a room crowded with clusters of strangers. What now? It does seem intimidating to engage with one stranger after another but that is exactly how successful networking begins. Nothing worth doing comes easily. And, just in case casual conversation is not one of your strengths, we have some suggestions for you that will help make your networking more productive:
Begin with the end in mind – You didn’t go there to pick up a hot date, did you? Most likely your main objective is to meet someone who can help your business. How can you make that happen? First, you must understand what the person you are talking to does and how your service could potentially assist them. Second, you need to clearly communicate what you do. Third, you need to make the assertion that your product or service would be advantageous to them. Of course, it is not that simple but try to keep these objectives in mind as you mingle.
Laughter is contagious – Use a little humor to create a connection. Make a sarcastic remark about the weather, comment on how crowded the event is compared to the last time, commiserate about the traffic you experienced on the way, laugh about current events, or anything else that is of interest to the general public. The key is to keep the mood light and upbeat. If you make them laugh, they will enjoy talking to you and want to hear more.
Ask about them – Once you have gotten past the basic “Hi my name is…”show genuine interest in your fellow networkers.
- Ask about their clothes, accessories, perfume, makeup, shoes, and resemblance to…, etc.
- Get them talking about their work situation. How long have they been there? What do they do? What are their biggest challenges?
- What do they hope to accomplish through networking? Is there anyone in particular they are trying to meet? Are there any organizations that they are trying to find contacts for? Introduce them to anyone you think may be able to help them.
- Where are they from? Where did they grow up? How long have they been here? How do they like it? Are they married? Do they have kids? If yes, ask how many children they have and what ages they are. This conversation could last all night.
Talk about the event itself –Share your impressions. Start with light topics such as the food, the lighting, the surrounding neighborhood, the parking situation, or other general topics related to the event. Then, ask if they have been here before. Are they members of the sponsoring organization? How long have they been involved and at what capacity? What other events does this organization host? Is it worth the cost? Have they gotten business out of their associations here?
Go with your gut – Watch the way people respond to you. Taper your conversation according to your perceptions of your audience. See what subjects make their eyes light up, what gets them excited. Remember, you are not likely to get a job offer or close the deal of the century during one networking event but you be beginning a relationship that leads to that end. Make sure the impression you leave behind is positive.