10 Good Ways to Communicate Effectively When Business Networking

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Have you ever had your heart sink and your stomach churn as you approach a networking event, hearing the roar of conversations and chit-chat?

What if nobody wants to connect with me?  What if I don’t know what to say?  How can I present myself?  What if I make a social gaff/get rejected/have everyone point, laugh or throw bread rolls at me?

It’s the nightmare scenario everyone fears as novice networkers.  But there are a few things you need to bear in mind if you want to make these events purposeful instead of painful.

The main thing you need to do is use your ears.  People love to talk about themselves and their passion about their business.  Let them.  They’ll think you’re fascinating and charismatic when all you did was nod at the right time, and more importantly, picked up clues about how to help them, connect them to others, or form a strategic alliance.

Keeping these questions in hand will ensure you don’t leave the event exhausted and feeling as if you’ve done nothing but hard sell yourself for hours:

  1. What’s do you love about your job?  (See their passion) – a great ice breaker, people will really warm up to you for asking this. Their faces should light up with excitement – but if they don’t, that in itself is another clue as to who they are and what their business needs. 
  2. How did you get started in your line of work? (Their life story) – you may get someone’s life history here especially if they are successful, but either way it’s an easy route to see what makes the person tick. 
  3. What separates your business from your competitors? (What makes them different) – this gives the other person permission to brag and show you what they excel at.  What their USP is.  Nod, smile and look impressed to make the best impression.
  4. What’s changed in your industry over the last few years and what do you see happening in the future? (Their challenges) – this allows the person to show off their knowledge and expertise in their field.  It also gives you an insight to their challenges from their observations and speculations, which works as great information for follow up.
  5. Where will you be in 5 years’ time – beach or boardroom?  (Their big dream) – some want world domination, while others just want a quiet life. But whatever it is the individual wants, how could you help them get there?  Who or what do you know that could help them (and benefit you, too?)
  6. What’s one of the funniest things you’ve experienced in business life? (Relax them) – a funny and memorable story will have you both giggling.  Everyone adores someone who made them laugh, even if they themselves were the one to tell the funny story! Have your own story up your sleeve and share it too.
  7. How would you like to be described by the people you work with? (Who they are) – this is another great opportunity for the other person to compliment themselves and for you to get to know them better. But, it also gives you some pointers as to what kind of person you should introduce them to, and how they like to work.
  8. What’s the most successful and satisfying way you win business/influence? (Pick up their tricks) – learn from their processes. This will help you better understand how you can help them and gives you positive references to use when you follow up later.
  9. What’s your ideal type of client/customer? (Who they are looking for) – whether it’s celebrities, the poor, the pregnant, or small business owners, knowing who they’re looking for simplifies the work for you. Pass on leads or offer referrals once you know who their target is. This implicitly tells them you’ll look out for them and could encourage reciprocation, making you seem like an expert networker.
  10. What do you do for fun? (Make friends) – a great feel good question, opening up the conversation beyond business.  It’ll help to define common interests and mutual contacts.

And finally, don’t cross examine – be human and share your stories too (where appropriate).  Don’t try to sell too hard but focus instead on exploring your common ground.  Introduce them to other networkers, even if you’ve only just met them too.

Remember also that you’re not just here to socialize.   Be goal focused and have an intention from the event.

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