Networking brings many things to mind. Some of us love it, others quite the reverse. Our breakfast at Home House give us an opportunity to meet new people as well as to deepen current relationships in delightful surroundings. One of the recurrent issues is how people introduce themselves when they first arrive, before the formal proceedings begin. This article is going to explore ways of improving so that it is pleasurable and effective. Here I am going to focus on the informal time when one first meets another person rather than the more structured opportunity of the ‘one minute’ in the BNI process.
Most networking occurs in a business context, whether that is a meeting in the street it is going to be different to a networking event or a trade show. It might be milling around at a conference or having a coffee with a contact. It might be opportunistic or it may be planned. In any case know what you want and who can help you find it. The chances are that the person you are talking to wants to help but cannot deliver exactly what you want but they may well know people who can be much more helpful.
You may be introduced or you may have to introduce yourself. In either case make sure that you have some simple ‘ice breaker’. It does not have to be the best in social repartee, just something that open up the conversation. If introduced it can be as simple as “Have you come far?” or “what do you do?” or “Who do you work for?” or “How do you know…” A question is much more likely to get you talking. This is the same as when you have to introduce yourself. “Do you come here often?” will work for regular events and for one off meetings “Who invited you?” might well do. Remember that everyone is there to meet new people and find out what is happening.
A little preparation is useful here. What will they want to know? Start with a general position so that people know what you do. This will generally include your trade or profession, your level or position and then your responsibilities. Being too precise early on may lead to confusion, especially if you use jargon or you assume that everyone know what you do. If you already know what they do you may be able to keep this focused as in, for instance, a trade show. If it is an open event, such as a BNI breakfast then best to start general and get more detailed as you get comments from your audience. Once a conversation has started, remember why you are there. Who so you want to meet? Do they know any such people? This is crucial and a point that many people give very little attention. Many people network and hope to find a customer then and there. This is unlikely to happen, at least until you have developed a relationship. On the other hand, if you know which professions or trades are good introducers for you then ask if they know if any are at the event. It might be suppliers, it might be customers or it can also be other specialists within the same sector. Often I get lots of good introductions when I am looking at how to be complimentary rather than competitive.
If you do make a good connection please, please follow up. Networking is only the beginning.