Too many people take networking for granted when it comes to building their business. Looking back, my business wouldn’t be where it is today without networking. The people in my network have always been there to provide tips, advice, opportunities and leads that help me grow my business.
I believe in giving back just as much as I receive and have even become good friends with many of the people in my professional network. However, it took time and dedicated effort to get there.
Too many times, networking attempts fail because they’re too awkward or non-memorable. The next time you go to a networking event or meet someone that you’d love to connect with, consider these conversation starter tips to make a lasting impression.
Be an Active Listener to Find Common Ground
When most people meet for the first time, they try to find common ground. They’ll usually ask questions like ‘what do you do?’ or ‘where are you from?’ Or they’ll try to connect on another note like if both people have kids or went to the same college.
Do yourself a favor and try to get beyond the surface talk. There are plenty of other things you can discuss to establish some common ground – most of which as not as boring as comparing the weather in Florida to the weather in Wisconsin.
To do this however, you need to be an active listener. Ask thought-provoking questions and actually listen to the other person’s response. Don’t be so quick to chime in with your own experience and opinions. Listen and let them share more about themselves.
Elevate the Conversation
You can really skip the small talk or aim to shorten it. People will engage more when it’s time to discuss real topics. Share a short, entertaining story or ask what they think about certain industry news or events. Also, be direct and ask what they’re looking to get out of the event and what their goals are.
Get clear on your own goals as well so you can find similarities and pinpoint areas where you may be able to work together in the future.
Make Your Pitch When It Seems Appropriate
I really liked how a conversation went at a recent networking event that I was at. We were in between sessions at the conference-style event and someone turned around and started a conversation with me.
We asked each other a few questions and within 3 minutes she pitched the idea of working together in some capacity. I appreciated her directness and that she didn’t beat around the bush so we exchanged information.
If the conversation is going well and you’re genuinely interested in connecting with that person, feel free to move forward with your pitch so you can follow up later. What’s the worst they could say? When you’re face to face with someone, they can’t ignore your email or brush your request off the side. Odds are, you’ll get their contact info and can potentially pursue a working relationship.
Seek Opportunities to Connect in the Future
Remember that networking isn’t all about exchanging cards and talking to as many people as possible. It’s all about building relationships and this does take time.
When you’re chatting with new people, be sure to establish ways to connect in the future. Maybe you can propose a catch up over coffee or schedule a follow-up call or email.
Networking is essential if you want to grow your business at a steady rate. Even if you’re an introvert or feel like you’re not the best at making genuine connections, you can use these conversation tips and techniques to help you network effectively and grow your circle.