Whether you are a networking novice or a networking ninja, these easy-peasy tactics will help to make your networking more productive and fun!
I still remember the first networking event I ever attended a few years ago. I’d left the corporate world, launched my own coaching business and I was looking for new clients. Everyone was suggesting I should try networking, but I was filled with nerves. What if nobody wants to connect with me? I thought. What if I don’t know what to say? How can I present myself? What if I make a social gaff/get rejected/have everyone point, laugh or throw canapés at me?!
It’s the nightmare scenario everyone faces as novice networkers. But there are a few things you need to bear in mind if you want to make these events purposeful instead of painful.
The main thing you need to do is use your ears. Your ears never get you in trouble. People love to talk about themselves, their passion about their business and who they are. Let them. They’ll think you’re fascinating and charismatic and all you did was nod in the right place and, more importantly, pick up clues about how to help them, connect them to others or form a strategic alliance.
You can also tuck some key questions up your sleeve to get you started. Here are five that you can use:
1. What is it that you love about your job?
See their passion: Their faces should light up at this point, and if they don’t that in itself is another clue as to who they are and what their business needs. People will immediately warm to you for asking this. A good ice breaker.
2. How did you get started in your line of work?
Their life story: You may get someone’s life history here, especially if they are successful—but, again, it’s a good way of seeing what makes the person tick.
3. What separates your business from your competitors?
What makes them different: This gives the other person permission to brag and show what they excel at. What their USP is. Nod, smile and look impressed. You’re learning new things all the time.
4. What’s your ideal type of client/customer?
Who they are looking for: Celebrities, the rich, the needy, the pregnant, married, single, with children, high powered corporate, small business owner, international, local, CEO, entrepreneur? Why not pass on leads or offer referrals at this stage? This implicitly tells them you’ll look out for them and could encourage reciprocation.
5. What’s one of the funniest things you’ve experienced in business life?
Relax them: A funny and memorable story will have you both giggling. Everyone adores someone who made them laugh, even if they themselves were the one to tell the funny story! It makes everyone feel more relaxed and it makes you memorable. Have your own story up your sleeve and share it too.
Remember also that you’re not just here to socialise. Be goal-focused and have an objective you want to accomplish at the event. And if the fear becomes too much, replace it with curiosity. After all, curiosity may have killed the cat, but it certainly won’t kill you at a networking event!