By Kim L. Clark
Life and work provide us with many networking opportunities, whether they’re structured events such as conferences sponsored by professional associations or personal events, such as parties with family or friends.
It’s likely that you’ll attend the business networking events alone and oftentimes you’ll not know anyone in the room. In those scenarios, Solopreneurs and Entrepreneurs will feel more comfortable when you’ve create for yourself a standard networking event agenda:
- Get a client.
- Get a referral source or collaborator.
- Get information.
Meeting a potential client will be a long shot, no doubt. Meeting a promising referral source or someone with whom you can collaborate is also a stretch, but the odds are better. Learning something useful, whether from the program speaker or helpful information you pick up from someone you meet, is a reasonable bet.So polish up your short-form elevator pitch. Remember to smile, relax and be willing to meet new people. Make note of these easy-to-roll out icebreaker conversation starters that will boost your networking ROI:
- Walk up to someone who is alone, smile and introduce yourself. You’re in the room to network, so make a point to extend yourself. You could meet someone who is worth knowing and at the very least, you’ll make someone feel more comfortable and happy to be there. “Saving” someone is good karma.
- “This is my first time attending this seminar. Are you a regular?” Displaying a bit of vulnerability is both humanizing and courageous. You’ll demonstrate your command of the meet & greet ritual. This opening makes it easy to segue into further conversation.
- “I admit that I don’t know a lot about what (the sponsoring group) does. What other programs do they put on?” With this question, you’ll receive information that will help you evaluate the possibility of deepening your involvement with the host organization.
- “That’s interesting. Tell me more.” People love talking about themselves. Conveying genuine interest is flattering and most of all, validating. The seeds for a good and maybe even mutually beneficial relationship will be planted, even if you don’t encounter that person again for another year or two.
- “Let me introduce you to… ” One of the best ways to position yourself as an influencer, as well as someone who is authentic and generous, is to introduce people who might be able to work together.
- Ask the speaker a good question. Take notes during the presentation and raise your hand during the Q & A. Attendees may seek you out after the talk. Feel free to approach the speaker as well. A good question showcases you as a smart person. Be careful not to hog the microphone.
- “Hi, I’m (name). That was a spot-on question you asked the panelist. What do you think about (related topic)?” In this scenario, you approach someone who asked the speaker an insightful question.
- “It’s been great meeting you. I see someone who’s on my list to meet and I’m going to take my leave. Thank you for being good to talk to.” Your exit strategy.
Kim L. Clark is an external strategy and marketing consultant who brings agile skills to the for-profit and not-for-profit organization leaders with whom she works. Ensure that your organization achieves its mission-critical goals when you contact Kim at http://polishedprofessionalsboston.com.