You already know that good networking is a crucial part of building a successful business, right? And you know that you can’t always use electronic social media. It does allow you to maintain connections across enormous distances with nearly no effort, but it’s not a substitute for creating face-to-face connections and the powerful relationships that we can create with in-person networking.
And doing in-person networking usually means going to networking events. Since you’re going to these events, here’s some ideas to help your in-person networking efforts be more effective.
1. If you’re too anxious, focus on others.
Not everyone is lucky enough to be a social butterfly. For many people, just the thought of of going into a crowd of strangers and talking to some of them, much less all of them, can be quite intimidating. Many times all you have to do, though, is think about good questions that focus on the other person, and the conversation will develop from there. You can ask them about their life, why they are at this networking event, or their company.
If you’re still stuck, you can try making comments or asking opinions about such immediate things as the environment. Avoid yes/no questions if you can. “How packed does this event get, do you know?” “What sorts of people do you usually see at these events?” Good questions will keep a conversation going. Do that and you won’t have to worry about the relationship, as it will take care of itself.
2. Find the right group to do your networking in.
There are so many networking events available to choose from! It can be a real challenge to choose the right ones to go to — or better yet, the ones that are the best use of your valuable time. It’s a good idea to choose an event that already has lots of high quality people you’re going to want to meet attending. Social media sites are a great place to start, as they have lots of groups already, many of them right up your alley. Choose a networking group, or choose one based on your special interests. Check out LinkedIn, meetup.com, yelp, Facebook, twitter, or eventbrite.com. All of these have events happening every day. With lots of these, you can see how many people are attending, and what sort of people they are.
We at Culture-FX advise you to save yourself some effort and only go to events that look like they have a sizable crowd attending, and one that you would gain something by meeting. Be warned that oftentimes marketing teams put on events where you can’t see the attendees — it’s these events that are designed to push a product or service. Here you’ll have trouble finding the value you’re looking for in a networking event.
3. Take the time to introduce people to others.
The primary purpose in attending networking events is to meet other people. That’s why most people go, after all. I’ve found that my style is to make, on average, about six good connections per event. Though that’s less than average, spending quality time with people is more important to me than quantity of time. I’ve found that it helps build stronger relationships, which I’d rather have anyhow.
I’ve also seen that if you take the time to introduce one person to another, you’ll raise the number of people they are meeting, thus making them more efficient. This is typically a good thing. Keep on introducing a few people to others here and there around the event, and quickly you’ll garner a reputation as “that person who you just have to meet.”
4. Help other people.
Lots of people go to networking events hoping to find something. When they find that thing, whether it’s a new connection, an answer to a certain challenge they’re facing, or a referral they need, they will remember and appreciate the people that helped them progress in the personal challenges they face. Ensure that you quickly figure out what others are looking for, and comb your own resources for that thing. Offer help if you can.
More than likely, they will return that favor many times over when you least expect it. You have to maintain the relationship, though, to ensure they at least remember you.
5. Family is usually a safe topic of conversation.
Smalltalk can get stale quickly, we know. Remember, though, that one of the crucial keys to developing relationships — both in business and in personal life — is to find things in common with the other person as quickly as possible.
Most people have families. And more importantly, most folks are fond of these families, and are more than happy to talk about them.
In case you’re about to hit a part of the conversation where it’s about to drift off into Boringsville because you can’t think of what to ask next, then start talking about family. Ask them about kids. Ask them where they go on vacation. Do they bring their family? When was the last time they saw their parents?
A couple of “yes” answers, and you’re quickly on your way to seeming like you’re old friends. Remember to share similar stories of your own, so the swapping isn’t all one-sided. Your new connection will start to feel comfortable talking to you while talking about subjects that interest them. Later you can ease the conversation around to business topics.