Networking events are a staple of business life for a variety of reasons. These functions are important if you are interested in promoting your products and services, trying to attract new customers or maintaining strong relationships with your existing clients. The way you prepare will directly affect how successful you are at luncheons, banquets or after-hours socials.
Before you leave your office, have in your possession an ample supply of business cards, copies of brochures or promotional materials if there will be a display area and a list of ten people with whom you want to connect. That number may seem a bit ambitious, but all ten won’t show up.
Prepare how you will introduce yourself so people will know who you are and what business you are in. Some people refer to this type of planned introduction as an “elevator” speech—short enough to be delivered during an elevator ride. You should definitely have a prepared self introduction, but whatever you do, don’t make it sound like a canned speech. Finally have in mind three topics you can talk about when a conversation seems to be going nowhere.
Add one more critical thing to that list—your listening skills. Listening has become an under appreciated facet of communication. We spend more time thinking about what we are going to say rather than paying attention to what other people are saying. Listening is one of the most impressive skills the polished professional can have.
Think about it—have you ever heard anyone complain that someone listened too much or made them feel too good by hanging on to their every word? Probably not. People are hungry for the kind of attention that listening offers. Those people may be your clients, co-workers, supervisors or prospects. Family and friends appreciate having your full attention as well.
Some of the best listeners are the current array of personal and professional coaches whose success depends on hearing what people are telling them. Coaches pay attention, and then relate back to clients what they have just said. I have a friend who is a life coach. She has always amazed me with her insight, intuition and great people skills. She is successful because she has an innate talent for listening. Anyone can do it with enough practice.
Inspire other people to talk at the next networking event you attend. Be genuine and focused. Ask open-ended questions—the ones that begin with “how” and “why”. Use that wonderful phrase that says “tell me about…” Share the conversation by keeping a 50-50 balance between talking and listening. The last thing you want to be is an interrogator who fires one question after the other and never makes a significant comment.
Use the “WAIT” technique—an acronym for “Why Am I Talking?” This is a good reminder to help you internally monitor your actions when communicating with another person. If you can’t come up with a good reason as to why you are talking, it might be a sign that you are dominating the conversation.
Go to your next networking event, prepared to connect with people through meaningful dialogue.
Lydia Ramsey is a Savannah-based business etiquette expert, professional speaker, trainer and author. Contact her at 912-598-9812 or visit her website: LydiaRamsey.com to leave a comment, ask a question or learn more about her programs and products.