At many networking events, you encounter many impressive people that you would not ordinarily meet or speak with. You probably attended the networking event to meet people and share some information about yourself, your business or profession. Ideally you would like to share and exchange information, and if you are lucky, arrange a coffee meeting to discuss ideas.
The only problem is you’ve never met any of these people before, and you may be concerned about making a favorable first impression. Relax, because there are some techniques and tactics you can use to make your next networking event not only worth your time but enjoyable.
Jon Levy, wrote an article for the Business Insider, shared some of his strategies for engaging professionals and celebrities in conversation. He breaks down how to start, hold, and end a conversation in a room full of strangers as follows:
Have a topic of conversation ready
He recommends having a topic ready to fill in moments of uncomfortable silence that arise between people who don’t know much about each other. He has a story about something he has been involved in or perhaps an interesting book that he is reading or has read. Jon also recommends that we “avoid the interview setting” which goes something like this;
You – “Hi, I’m Jim, so “So what do you do? I do this.
Other Party – “What do you do?”
Jon labels this as merely sharing facts, not insights. It’s not an effective way of connecting, either.
Tell Compelling Stories
You should strive to be memorable when you’re meeting new people, and the best way to do so is through good storytelling. When you tell a story, make sure it has a clear point and a punchline, whether it’s a takeaway or a suitable joke. Most of us must be careful not to apply our efficient work approach to communicating. You want to avoid talking in boring or direct ways about ourselves.
A good way to avoid the so-called “interview” approach is to stop talking about your job and using that as a crutch. At some point the conversation can smoothly segue toward the professional and business purposes for the networking event. Ideally, if you can meet a few people that you can get to know personally, the event will be a success. One last note; if you are attending an event to cover a booth or display, this is a POOR setting for networking.
End Conversations Gracefully
Learn how to end conversations gracefully. The key is that the last moments the conversation will define how people remember you, so you want to refine the art of ending the conversation. Of course, you should never abruptly end a conversation. It is entirely appropriate to let the person know that you were happy to meet them and enjoyed the conversation. You can also suggest that, time permitting, you could continue the conversation. This is also the appropriate time to share contact information.
The most successful networking event is one in which you have established a relationship with one or two key people. Realistically, you will not strike a “vibe” with everyone you meet. Politely, move on and don’t waste your time trying to convince a restrained person that you’re actually great when you could instead be meeting plenty of other interesting people.
Be careful not to over or under value people or experiences. So, as we appreciate the diversity of exceptional human beings, opportunities and business deals you will definitely realize there are a lot of options out there.
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