Typically we go to events with a prior mindset of connecting with folks who could help in our businesses. Here are some tips from my experience, to help those who find it awkward to begin..
Wishfully, I would want to network with the most influential person in the room- but would a meeting like this help? He would have 10 possible networkers around him. It is good to have his card but – very unlikely to leverage from a conversation, jostling in the middle of this crowd
- Knowing who do you connect/network – sometimes a look around will automatically draw you to someone – he/she would be a good person to begin with. Once you begin, other people will be around – just mill into the next person. Better still nod your head and stand next to someone available and let him network
- Starting a conversation – Having found the person, striking a conversation is actually simple. In a networking meet, one is expected to be unaware of another person’s business and therefore, “So, what do you do?” and “ Hi, I am Neel with ‘nfaktor’ and you are ?” is a perfectly good start . Asking a simple question, even if it is about the traffic, generally works. Having a One-Liner that describes you and your company could not only be handy but also critical at this stage and will help you avoid an unprepared awkward moment should you have to face the question.
- Continuing a conversation: Continuing a conversation is mostly not by talking but listening, So let us listen, listen beyond hearing. Go deeper – pause, ask questions on what he/she is saying and you will find that he is interested in you without you speaking a full sentence.
- Exchanging Cards: Sometimes this gets awkward because more often than not – one of you has a dinner tray or a coffee cup in your hands. So wait, till that awkwardness goes, if it does not go away – I have found it perfectly alright to say “I will let you finish your dinner and find you later to give you my card”. Generally, I prefer to exchange cards after the conversation.
- Moving on to the next contact: Winding up a conversation is again not so difficult and I have heard many variations of some standard lines like “Let me also grab a plate” , “ Maybe we should catch up again , Can I have your business card? ”. It is also important at this stage to mention a promise to connect back.
5+1. Converting to a relationship: This is the difficult part. Typically retaining the contacts that we create in an event is more difficult, because your contact is no longer bound to respond to your “Hi” through a mail, so how you connect with the contact in the immediate next few days defines if your networking was useful. A phone call or an email or both continuing on what you discussed would be great to start.
….from here on networking ends and a relationship begins…Important thing to know is that when you make a relationship you will get business, and networking is about creating relationships – avoid selling and just try and understand everything the prospect says and you will find it easy….