Most entrepreneurs and businesspeople expect to find themselves at networking and industry events at least a few times per calendar year, if not per month. But far too many promising conversations turn into one-sided pitches punctuated with a business card. Make sure you are not one of these kind people!
Before you head out to your next event, why not practice a more thoughtful approach to conversation with a like-minded stranger? You might even end up with a new business partner, customer, investor, or friend.
1. Ask a thoughtful question
Ask something that will get a different and unique conversation started. Instead of the normal question “What do you do?” ask, “What do you hope to take away from this event?” Or ask them what they think of a new idea you have. So you can also tell them about your idea. People remember having an interesting conversation.
2. Just simply listen
Most people launch right into their pitch or chitchat. You don’t want to come of as trying to hard to sell yourself. You’ll make a more positive, memorable impression if you allow the other person to speak first or if you pose an open question and then listen attentively to the answer. The more the other person talks, the better a conversation partner you’re perceived to be.
3. Offer people help
When meeting someone new, a great strategy is to quickly get a sense of what he or she does, and then immediately look for ways to help that person. Ask, “Can I make an introduction to so-and-so?” or “Would it be helpful if I connected you with X?” Far too many people look at networking as a way to get things. By approaching it as a way to give, you’ll forge great relationships with tons of amazing people while paying it forward.
4. Give people a reason to remember you
I find that one of the most important things you can do during the first five minutes of meeting someone is giving them something to remember you by. At a business event, they may meet many individuals, but when you make a strong and memorable first impression, your new acquaintance will remember you the next time you reach out.
5. Focus on quality, not quantity
Show genuine interest in the conversation. Trust me everyone notices once you don’t show genuine interest. Write the event name on their business card, then follow up within 24 hours. Go for quality of connections rather than the quantity of business cards you collect by the end of the night. Business cards aren’t going to get clients at the end of the day, but connections and strong relationships will.
6. Ask people what makes them happy/excited/lose sleep
… Anything but what they do. Networking events can end up like an elevator pitch on a time loop. Stop the cycle by asking about something unrelated and see where the conversation takes you. And listen!
7. Remember their name and story
Business events are an excellent way to grow your professional network by meeting in person with other professionals. You never know who you will meet and how you two may work together in the future.
8. Clearly, define what you do best
Have your elevator pitch ready to roll. Try to make it interesting and deliver it with passion. Be proud and excited about what you do and make the message clear and sticky
9. Tell people a story
Be authentic and tell a story. Stories are the best way to create a metaphor and allow other people to understand the type of thinker that you are. Tell them why you do what you do, I am not talking about making money is the reason why you’re doing what you’re doing.
10. Smile and make eye contact
People make judgments within the first seven seconds or so of meeting you, and that’s statistically around the point at which they start tuning out if you don’t engage them. Smiling at them and making sincere eye contact shows them that you’re warm and interested in speaking with them. These tiny gestures will set the stage for you to engage in a meaningful conversation.
11. Say their name
Say their name, works every time! Everyone likes to hear the sound of their own name and it helps you form a connection. That, matched with solid eye contact and a firm handshake, creates a positive first impression.
12. Send an intro email on the spot
Seriously we don’t get the value of business cards anymore. Anytime we meet someone and they try to end the conversation with “Here’s my business card …” We want to stop them, pull out our phones and ask them to enter their email address. After that, sending them a quick intro email and boom! We’re connected.
13. Talk about your passions
Tell them about your passions and ask them about theirs. This can be as simple as saying “So what is it you’re passionate about?” after the typical “here’s what I do” back and forth. This tends to catch people off guard in a good way, and allows them to either wax poetic about the aspect of the work they love, or something outside their work to which you may have a connection. Either way, it helps build the relationship.
14. Compliment them
Make sure that your appearance and demeanor radiate health and energy. Be genuinely interested in the people you meet; ask them questions about themselves and try to find something on which to compliment them.