When I first arrive at a networking event the first thing I do is look for someone new to meet. I introduce myself and try to determine if there is some way I can help them or that we can work together. If they begin their “sales pitch” I quickly excuse myself and move on to someone else. I rarely hang out with the people I know.
Because your networking goal should be to help others first. Selling comes much later after you have developed a good relationship with them.
If you see a group of several people talking, use caution when approaching them. You may be interrupting an important discussion. It’s smart to come along side of the group, but do not attempt to enter into the discussion until you’ve made eye contact with everyone. It’s important to wait before joining the conversation until you listen and know what they are talking about and determine whether you can contribute something.
If the group doesn’t open up, you should move on. If several people move as if to allow you to become part of the group that’s when I move a little closer to their circle. Andrew Griffiths once said, “When we are in a group we behave a bit like penguins – we will shuffle to let other penguins in and then huddle back together.”
Opening up is usually a signal that you are being invited to become a part of their conversation. If that happens, listen and wait for an appropriate time to share something of value. If you enter a group and start taking over the conversation, the group will disband and you will be left on your own. To barge into a group is rude.
When someone is talking to you, make it a point to look directly at them. Giving them your full attention with your eyes will encourage them to share more with the group and with you. Don’t stare. It’s not a “stare-down” contest. The point is to give them your “full” – that means 100% of your attention.
It is also important to initiate conversations with people who are standing by themselves. They are usually happy to have someone to talk with. Make small talk. Be creative with your small talk. Never be boring. How can you help them? Be sure to repeat their first name several times to make them feel good and to help you remember it.
Here are 5 questions that will help you keep the conversation going:
1. What do you like most about what you do?
2. You mentioned that you were in [industry]. What got you started in that direction?
3. What are some of your biggest challenges?
4. Where else do you usually network?
5. How can I help you? or How can we help each other?
Take time to communicate with the people you meet. Find out as much as you can about them and if you can’t see a way to help them or to do business together it’s okay to excuse yourself and move on to your next person.
Helping others is the focus. Demonstrate your networking skills by introducing each new person you meet to at least one other person at the event.
Copyright © 2012 – Larry James. Adapted from Larry’s latest book, Ten Commitments of Networking: Creative Ways to Maximize Your Personal Connections! Larry James is a Professional Speaker, Author and Coach. He presents networking seminars nationally and “Networking” coaching by telephone or one-on-one. Something NEW about Networking is posted on this Networking BLOG every 4th day! Visit Larry’s Networking Website at: “Networking HQ!”
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