Do you play bumper car or smart networking?
Bumper car networking is when you show up at a meeting or social function, bump up to someone for a couple of minutes, talk about this or that, hand out your business card and say something like: “Let’s get together some time.”
Now smart networking is different. Its focus is on building relationships, not just contacts. Here are seven tips to help you connect with people, develop meaningful conversations and, most importantly, advance your career.
1. Come prepared.
Have two or three openers that you can use with a variety of people you meet. That way, you won’t fumble for something to say when you first meet someone.Some examples: “What drew you here today? “Have you seen any good movies lately?” “What did you find particularly interesting about the presentation?”
2. Create an agenda.
People often dread small talk situations because they say, “I don’t know what to talk about.” Actually the problem is that there have too much to talk about—an entire universe of topics—not nothing to say. Narrow down your conversation options by making two lists.
- On the “get” list put who you want to meet or what you want to learn more about.
- On your “give” list put your areas of expertise, interesting information, people you know, etc.
3. Listen and learn.
Once you’ve asked your opening question, listen patiently to the person’s answer. Allow the speaker to elaborate without rushing to jump in. Be thinking, “What does this person need? What’s on my “give” agenda?”
4. Focus your attention.
Avoid the canned nod-and-smile approach with eyes roaming the room to see who else is there. Continue to ask engaging questions. If you’re friendly and genuinely curious, others will feel comfortable talking with you.
5. Find common ground.
Only after the person has told “his story”, then share your thoughts and experiences. If you find something you both can relate to, that establishes a bond that can lead to further exchanges. Be open to the magic of where the conversation can take you.
6. Ask for their help.
Most people enjoy helping others. Therefore what is it that you want to “get”? Use your agenda to find someone who has written an article you’ve enjoyed, or can introduce you to the speaker, or give you ideas for your upcoming project.
7. End with the next step.
If you want to continue the relationship, conclude with what you’re going to do next or what you expect of the other person.
- “I‘ll send you the article we’ve been talking about.”
- Let’s set up a time when we can get together to talk further.”
Career Success Tip
Preparation, a focused agenda and a genuine interest in others are the keys to smart networking that builds relationships, not just contacts. Think back to a recent networking event you attended. Did you play bumper car or smart networking?
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- Copyright © 201o Marcia Zidle career and leadership coach.