No matter what industry you are in, networking and creating genuine connection with people is important to getting ahead. Every one we meet has the potential to introduce us to others that we can help or that can help us. If you have a Linked In profile, you can understand the exponential reach our connections have. How do you make networking work for you? Some people attend networking events and walk away having made very little impact on the group or on their own agenda. There are several key elements to successful networking. The first is perfecting your elevator pitch. An elevator pitch acts as an icebreaker or introduction of sorts when meeting new people. It usually sells you and your company and can often be difficult to develop. Creating a better pitch begins with your why. Why do you do what you do? What are you passionate about? How are you uniquely able to serve others and solve their issues? If you can answer these questions, you will be able to assemble a pitch that leaves others wanting to know more about you. Always frame it with them in mind. Everyone wants to know the WIFM (what’s in it for me). Once you have it down, practice it but strive to sound natural not rehearsed. Some people have their pitch memorized and you can tell, it sounds stale, predictable and more like a walking advertisement than a genuine self-introduction.
Now that you’ve perfected the pitch, how do you really connect with people? Connecting with people is more about them than it is about you. One of the things Dale Carnegie stresses in his book, “How to win Friends and Influence People” is to make others feel important and happy to help you. The best way to make people feel important is use active listening when they are talking with you. Too often, we let our eyes wander, or respond to the speaker with filler words and other clues that we are not interested in what others have to say. When you are at a function, pay close attention to these clues as not to come across as disrespectful or rude. I tend to visualize a picture of what the person is telling me. Not only does it help me understand what they are explaining, I feel their emotions more as if I was witnessing their life and it also helps me REMEMBER what they told me months later.
Connecting with others isn't about TALKING- it's about LISTENING. Don’t make the conversation all about you. Having great go-to questions will help in this area. Just as every trade has a tool kit they reach to for, have 3-4 questions in your tool kit handy when you meet others. Ask open-ended questions about others. Learn what makes them tick, find out what you can do to help them with a problem, or a question. Some of the questions I have are:
- Asking where they are from and then "Tell me what brought you here from ____".
- What activities do you and your kiddos enjoy doing together?
- I saw you drive a ____, how do you like it? (Or use anything like purse, running shoes, type of cell phone)
- The next holiday approaching: "Oh I just love ______, (Halloween, Easter, Christmas, New Years). Do you have any special plans? Are you ready for the holiday (decorating, shopping, cooking, etc)
Once you've asked a question or two, pay ridiculous attention to others and be memorable. If you are listening, you won't be at a loss for more questions because the conversation will start to have great conversational content. Lastly, don't interrupt! Interrupting says, "I'm not interested in hearing any more what YOU are saying, I want you to hear what I want to say." If there is something you are afraid you'll forget to share with them, VISUALIZE something relevant to what it is so you can recall it faster when it's your turn to share.
Lastly, ask for their contact info. Specifically their EMAIL or their TEXT number. Notice I said text and not cell phone. I know it's the same thing but people are more open to share their number if they know you will text them and not call. Emails are important because compared to every other form of contact, emails are the MOST CONSISTENT. People generally keep their email regardless if they move, switch phones, social media changes, etc.
Keeping these tips in mind at your next networking function will yield amazing results and put you top of mind for others in need of your services.