The number one networking strategy I recommend? It’s the conversation. After all, most of the influence you will have on your connections is not just what you say it is how you say it and how well you listen.
If you’re going to have something good to talk about, you’re going to need to be prepared for the event. Questions and answers aren’t simply going to fall into your lap, so arrive with them beforehand. What are you going to talk about? What do you want to talk about? How will you encourage others to speak? What will others talk about?
I recommend that you have a set of questions you feel comfortable asking new contacts in a way that’s conversational (not at all like an interrogation). I also recommend that you have some “set” answers or responses on your own. Answers to questions like, “what do you do” or “what’s new” or “what’s been happening in your life lately”? I encourage you to have those answers prepared, not because you will dominate the conversation and talk about yourself, rather you will come across as confident because your familiar with your response and more importantly you won’t have to “craft” your answer in the moment so you can truly focus and listen to what the other person is saying.
Know your audience before you go. [tweet this]
Attendance lists are often available through the host, allowing you to see who it is that you’re going to be meeting with. Don’t go into the event completely blind. Research some of your potential connections (Linkedin profiles make it easy). While you don’t have to research everyone, be sure to focus on a few target individuals, and possibly interact with them prior to the event (sending them a message such as: “Eager to meet you at the upcoming networking event”).
This will allow you to make connections with those you have something in common with. Do they have similar interests? Are they in the same professional field? Can some of them offer an advantage you’re looking for? This information will allow you to take a first-impression conversation and turn it into a relationship-building conversation.
The ideal situation is to focus on those specific connections. While some professionals would believe it best to go into a networking event and try to meet everyone or at least as many as possible, it is more effective to target the right crowd and work towards developing those connections. This will allow you to focus on making the most of your time spent at any particular event. Just remember to keep your options open and be ready to make un-planned conversations work for you.
Be efficient with things; be effective with people. [tweet this]
In essence, you are developing an immediate relationship with these contacts. There is a clever advantage to this in that you make an impact with connections where it matters most. Though this does not mean that you should consume a large quantity of their time, it’s likely that they also want to make other connections of their own. In other words, more time spent does not equal a better conversation.
A good conversation
Remember that it’s not the quantity of discussion you have with a connection but the quality of that conversation. You don’t have to spend the day with someone to get to know them. By simply carrying on a good conversation, you can turn a contact into a loyal connection.
This is done by discussing passions. Not everyone is entirely passionate about their business in every sense (though for some, it may be their life). There are hobbies and goals both personal and professional that others enjoy discussing. Networking isn’t about selling a product or service. It is about selling yourself. Networking is done on both professional and personal levels. After all, you are an individual discussing and sharing in order to meet and associate with other like-minded individuals. Keep your conversation open so that you can keep your opportunities open and share what really matters.
Don’t delay, act now!
One of the most effective methods is to connect sooner rather than later. When connections are fresh, their interest is piqued, which is the most convenient moment to act. Try to set up follow-up meetings with contacts by discussing schedules. Will they be available within the next few days? If they are, schedule a cup of coffee and a good conversation as early as possible.
Conversation is the key element of any networking event. Individuals meet and converse about their own interests, building valuable connections for their networks. And while certain techniques can help others to remember you, it is the value of your conversation that will ultimately reflect upon your network. You will learn more about them so that when you do connect you can “remember them” and continue to the conversation about their interests. When they feel valued, you become memorable. Pay attention to the conversation and truly discover how to make your networks work!
Maria Elena Duron, CEO (chief engagement officer), buzz2bucks | a word of mouth marketing firm, is skilled at making networks “work” and harnessing powerful online and offline buzz, she facilitates online visibility services and word of mouth coaching and workshops – taking companies and professionals from buzz-worthy to bucks-worthy.