You know that feeling of discomfort at a network event?
If you enjoy networking, meeting new people and introducing yourselves over and over again, then this blog is not for you. You probably go into such a meeting with a smile on your face and a sense of positive excitement.
Well, I’m not one of those. I find confronting and to the point of terrifying. That is quite ironic, since I like to meet people and my professional life is focussed on connection and interaction. It is probably my introverted side that gets really shy.
If you relate, I have listed some tips for you below. Tips on how to start, to connect and to end a conversation.
First a couple scenarios.
Imagine you are entering the network meeting. You see someone you know. What’s going through your mind? Are you going straight to this person? Because hey nice, now you don’t have to start mingling with strangers right away? By choosing the safe path of least resistance, you can finally catch up with this old friend. For the length of the entire meeting.
Well, now comes the next challenge: you also want to meet new people. You want to join a group of people, yet they are already heavily engaged in a conversation. That looks fun and exciting! But how do you step in? How do you join?
Option A: you quietly stand close by and listen, you observe. And when you see the opportunity to jump in, you ask a question. The danger may be that no one notices you. And that in the meantime you are being swallowed up by self-criticism and you are monitoring yourself from above.
Or option B: you break in brusquely, with a loud ‘hello, I’m so-and-so, you are talking so animated, can I join you?
Or do you notice that you are talking to someone for too long when you actually want to leave, but you don’t want to give the other person that feeling? When the conversation ends, all your conversation spice has faded and you decide that it is indeed late and you go home with a hollow feeling.
So, here is my network meeting plan, because good preparation is half the battle.
The list can be much more extensive, you can email me. Please even.
Tip 1: what to say to join:
- Hi, can I join you?
- I hear you talking animatedly, what are you talking about?
- Can you briefly explain what you are talking about?
- What brings you here today?
- What made you join this meeting? What has it been like for you so far?
Tip 2: what to say to connect:
- I’m curious, who you are and what is it that you do?
- My three/four core values are.. and what gives me energy is..
- Clients characterize me as.. [for example that it seems like they are my only client]
- What do your clients say about you? What characterizes you?
- Can you introduce me or introduce me to people you think are a match in what I do? Who should I meet?
Tip 3: how to end the conversation charmingly:
- I could keep talking longer, but I also want to meet other people today, shall we make an appointment to continue this conversation? Or do you have a name card or email address, I’ll send you an invitation for an appointment.
- We’ve been talking for a while now and what kind of advice do you have for me, who could you link me to, who should I definitely talk to?
Ultimately, the purpose of the network meetings is to make contact and, if possible, have pleasant conversations.
Doing business starts with making contact, building trust and meeting each other; when that happens, there’s a mutual click. From there, a beautiful business relationship can arise. That rarely happens in one conversation. If the spark has jumped in the first conversation, more appointments can follow.
Hence this preparation. A good start is half the work.
Lots of fun!