Do you need help starting and ending networking conversations at professional meetings? You may appreciate the tips below. Although not a business writing topic, the information can help you communicate more confidently at business events.
To overcome worries about being energetic while going it alone:
Take a buddy to events. You and your buddy can introduce one another, take turns starting the conversation, and sing one another's praises.
To feel like you know what you are doing:
Have a clear purpose for your networking. Do you want to meet one particular person or many people? Do you want to get some specific advice or just see what you can learn? Are you scouting for a potential client? Or do you just want to see who’s at the event and have fun?
Have your elevator speech ready so you can be clear about who you are and what you want. People need help getting to know you and how they can help you. This tip is courtesy of Lorraine Howell, who wrote "Give Your Elevator Speech a Lift."
To get conversations going:
Be curious. Ask “What brought you here today?” or “Have you heard the presenter before?” or “What’s new and exciting?”
Be prepared with something positive to share (for example, enthusiasm about an excellent book or an art exhibit), so you don’t find yourself just asking questions.
To join a conversation when everyone seems previously engaged:
Find someone you know and join their conversation.
Pay attention to body language. People’s stances will tip you off to which conversations are private.
Exude positive energy: “This conversation looks animated. May I join you?”
Look for someone who is also alone.
To extract yourself from a conversation that has gone on long enough:
Use variations on these statements:
“I’ve enjoyed talking with you."
“It’s been a great conversation."
“I see somebody else I need to talk to.”
“I’m going to freshen my drink/visit the buffet” (then do so).
“I’d like to meet some other new people.”
“I’m sure you’d like to talk to others. I won’t take up all your time.”
To acknowledge that you feel a real connection with someone:
Use a statement like “It seems that we could offer each other some support” or "We seem to have a lot of common interests."
To keep the connection alive:
Read my advice: “How to Follow Up on Networking Contacts."
Request a LinkedIn connection.
Email the individuals now and then to check in and share updates. But ask permission before adding anyone to your mailing list.
Most of these tips came from a lively brainstorming session of the Solo Pros group, Seattle chapter of the Association of Women in Communication. If you are a Seattle-area communicator, join us!
If you'd like to continue to nurture your business relationships, get my award-winning book, Business Writing With Heart: How to Build Great Work Relationships One Message at a Time. It’s a timely gift for a new college grad or yourself. Get it from me at Syntax Training, buy it on Amazon, or order it from your local bookseller.
I'd love to read your networking tips. Please share them.