Networking events maximize your business connections, whether you’re looking for new clients, strategic partners, or a new job. Regardless of your reason for being there, keep your conversations focused on the people you’re meeting and not on yourself.
People love to talk about themselves. By continuing to ask them questions, you’re not only learning about their background and company, you’re building a rapport. By continuing to ask questions, you’ll eventually find several common threads upon which you can build a relationship.
Watch how their eyes light up when you hit on a topic they’re passionate about. Its not always work related. It can be music, golf, books, or the latest episode of a TV program. Children and pets are one of the quickest ways to bond with a new acquaintance. Who doesn’t love to talk about their pets? And unless they have teenagers, I would guess they love to talk about their kids too.
If it’s an unstructured event where people mingle around the food tables and stand in line for the open bar, introduce yourself first and then start asking questions about them. Why are they at the event? What do they hope to learn or gain from it? What kind of work do they do? How did they get into that field? Be curious and make it all about them.
If it’s a structured event, like a breakfast or luncheon, be prepared to ask others at the table about themselves. If possible, try to make sure everyone is heard. If you’re in a leadership position, or job searching for one, what a great opportunity to show your leadership skills. Facilitate the conversation around the table, keeping the topic off of you.
Don’t go to a networking event planning to close business or find a job. It’s not going to happen. A networking event provides the seeds to plant a new relationship. Those seeds take time to nurture and grow before you’ll see a harvest.