Networking Tips 2017.
I hated networking. A lot. The thought of forcing a conversation simply made my stomach turn.
And the interesting thing is, you probably wouldn’t see it on the outside. My friends call me extrovert and easy going.
Yet there wouldn’t be a lot of things which I’d hate more than being in a room of strangers in a networking event or so called social drink.
Why I hated it
First of all, I didn’t like the idea of ‘forced’ talking to a stranger. Secondly the thought of people who go to networking events to ‘collect cards’ made me want to puke.
Networking Tips 2017
The bad news: I know networking is important.
I know networking is important, especially if you’re an entrepreneur. New investors, partners or customers don’t come out of nowhere. Having a big, diversified networking definitely helps you to the next level.
Realizing this, I knew it was time to pick up my game and learn more about networking. I started asking entrepreneurs I highly admire about their networking tactics. For these people networking seemed like a born talent, a skill they have since they were born.
‘Let’s get to it: Networking Tips 2017’
I asked 12 entrepreneurs about their #1 networking tip. This is what they said.
#1 Lean in when you don’t want to be bothered. Lean out when you want to end the conversation.
‘There are really two types of networking conversations.
- An interesting, deep conversation which you really enjoy
- A light weighted small talk, which you’d be happy to interrupt
Whenever you find yourself in one of these situations, you should adjust your body language to this.
In case number 1 you are enjoying the conversation, so you don’t want to be interfered by others. Here’s what you do: You move yourself in a 180-degree position, relatively from your conversation partner. By standing face to face, it makes it less attractive for others to drop in and interrupt your conversation.
In case number 2 you don’t mind others to interrupt. Here’s what you do: You move yourself in a 120-degree position, relatively from your conversation partner. By standing almost next to each other, it’s an easy way for others to blend in.’
#2 Research the people you’d like to talk to, and rehearse an ice-breaker
‘Every time you go to a networking event there’s probably one or two people you’d really like to talk to. If that’s the case, make sure to do a little background research and see what they have been up to. Use this information to come up with an ice-breaker. If you want to talk to the CEO of a big company and you found out that he loves ice-skating, you can open with: ‘I heard that you’re a big ice-skating fan, are you a regular?’. Make sure to have a few follow up questions prepared and before you know you find yourself chatting for an hour.
#3 Listen way more than you talk
‘This one is a no-brainer. Everybody likes to talk about themselves. Simply by listening and asking follow up questions you’ll become a networking king.’
#4 Practice small talk at the coffee machine
‘Networking becomes easier if you practice a lot. There’s no need to start your practice at the networking event itself, you can also do it at the coffee machine. Every time you go for a cup of coffee and you see somebody, you ask ‘How’s life treating you today. Anything exciting?’ This usually works best if you avoid the typical ‘How are you’ type of questions. Unexpected questions lead to fun and great conversations.’
#5 Ask the host if you can help with anything. This will get you into conversations.
‘Organizing a networking event requires a lot of work. You can bet that the host will love you if offer to help out. While scoring points with the host is a nice side bonus, the real win comes from the small conversations you get to have.
- If you help with serving out drinks you have many short conversations
- If you help with the guest list, you get to welcome everybody
All these short touch points will get you lots of small talk, and potential interesting conversations.
#6 Arrive early, this makes networking so much easier
‘This one is an open door, but it works. If you arrive early, it’s way easier to start conversations. People didn’t form groups yet and it’s easier to approach others. The likelihood that others approach you also increases significantly’
#7 Ask open-ended questions as much as possible
‘As mentioned in #3 you should listen and ask questions. An even better strategy is to only ask open questions. This way you make sure the other person keeps talking. Not only does this create a longer and deeper conversation, it also makes you look genuinely interested (which you hopefully actually are).’
#8 If somebody asks what you do; have your answer ready
‘If you’re a regular reader of the PitchSkills blog, you probably know the importance of a great pitch. This especially applies to networking events. If somebody asks you what you do, you should be able to produce a short pitch within the blink of an eye. If you’re able to give them a great, short pitch they’ll usually get excited and start asking you questions.’
#9 If possible, always answer their questions with a short story
‘When people ask you how you landed this job, why you chose to launch your company, or any other question, you should use storytelling. Let me explain it with an example:
He: ‘Why did you decide to launch your company?’
You: ‘That’s an interesting story. It was a few years ago when I was talking with some fellow entrepreneurs. I noticed how they couldn’t get their startups off the ground, because they lacked funding. Myself I had been pitching successfully to many investors, so I helped them out with their pitch. Within a few months 3 out of 4 got funded and they’re doing really well. It was then, when I decided to launch PitchSkills’
If you’re done with your story, it’s time to turn back the conversation. As you learned by now, people love to talk about themselves. Give them the opportunity by asking an open-ended question.’
#10 Send a short message to the people you want to stay in touch with
‘Congratulations. You went to the networking event and even managed to talk to a few people. Now it’s time to establish the connection. The best way to do this is to make it seem like a natural thing. If you followed the other advices, you have been listening to your conversation partner really well. Use the stories they shared an use this to your advantage. If you remember that the CEO of that big company loves ice-skating, send him an article about that ice-skater who got busted for using doping.’
#11 At the end of a conversation, you should ask if there’s anybody they think you should talk to
‘It took me a while to get used to this one, but now I use it every time. In a networking event, everybody probably knows (or recognizes) a few people. By the end of your conversation, you should ask your conversation partner if there are other people they think you should talk to. There are two main benefits of doing this:
- It gives you a warm introduction to a new person
- They help you filter out a person which will lead to a better conversation
#12 If you want to end a conversation, sneak out by going to the restroom
‘If you feel like the conversation is over or if you want to talk to another person, you should end the conversation. You can either say that you’re going to the bar (with the risk that he is joining you as well) or that you go to the restroom. If you want to be sure that you really end the conversation, you can give him a handshake and thank him for the nice conversation’
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