Using effective communication techniques makes networking so much easier. If you’re usually at a loss about what to say when networking, read on.
Networking is a lot like playing the game Clue. You have to ask questions, collect information, and pay attention. It’s child’s play, right?
For these examples, here’s the scenario.
- The event is the monthly membership meeting of the Atlanta Association of Marketing Geniuses (AAMG). It is an evening event, with hors d’oeuvres and a cash bar. Networking takes place from 5:30 to 6. At 6 the president of the association gives remarks and introduces the guest speaker.
- I’m Pam Scott, playing you.
- Attendees are Miss Scarlett, Colonel Mustard, and Mrs. White.
Effective Communication Techniques–Introduce yourself
How do I introduce myself to someone at an event that I’ve never been to before? I hear that question all the time, and it’s really easier than you think it is. That’s where it helps to know effective communication techniques.
One young woman told me her approach was this: “Hey, everybody. Here’s my name. What’s your name? I am going to stop talking now. What do you do? What did you do before? Blah blah blah.”
Don’t do that. Here’s how I start a conversation with someone I don’t know.
I walk up to a person, extend my hand for a handshake, and if I can read the person’s name tag, I’ll say, “Hi, I’m Pam Scott. How are you, Miss Scarlett?”
If I can’t read the name tag, I’ll extend my hand and say, “Hi, I’m Pam Scott. And you are. . .”
The other person will automatically say their name.
Then I say something like, “It’s nice to meet you, Miss Scarlett. What brings you to this event tonight?”
The answer to that question will tell me if Miss Scarlett is also new to the group, if she’s a regular attendee, if she’s an officer, or what it is that attracted her to this event at this particular time. That is all really important information in order for me to continue a conversation with her.
Let’s suppose that Miss Scarlett says she attends this networking event regularly. She might say something like, “I usually come to these monthly membership meetings. I get to meet great people and learn something.”
Then I’d say, “That’s good to hear that you attend these meetings and find value in them on a regular basis. What line of work are you in related to this association?”
That’s better than saying, “What do you do?” It also will let Miss Scarlett reveal more about herself and her role without it sounding like she’s rattling off an elevator speech.
If Miss Scarlett understands the basics of networking, she’ll come back and ask a question like, “Why did you come to this event tonight?”
It’s at that point that you can tell her who you work for and what you do and be honest about why you’re at the networking event.
“I work for Blindside Marketing as assistant creative director. I’d like to meet others in the field and am interested in tonight’s speaker.”
At that point, you and Miss Scarlett chat about the speaker. Then you can tell her you’d like to meet Colonel Mustard because you’ve always admired his work.
“I’ve heard Colonel Mustard attends these events. As a member, do you know him? I’d like to meet him and just say hi.”
If Miss Scarlett is helpful, as most humans are, she’ll point out Colonel Mustard, maybe offer to introduce you to him, or say she’ll introduce you to Mrs. White, who is good friends with the colonel.
You say: “That would be so helpful. Thank you for making me feel like AAMG is a good group for me to get to know.”
Find the food
If you are really intimidated about introducing yourself to a stranger, hang out near the hors d’oeuvres table and start a conversation about the food. As you see someone else reaching for a crab ball appetizer, you can make a comment such as, “I love these things. I’m so glad to see they have them.” Or “I know I shouldn’t eat these, but I can’t resist.”
The person you make the comment to is likely to comment back to you. At that point, you can extend your hand and go, “Hi, I’m Pam Scott, and this is my first time here. What should I expect this evening?”
The other person will most likely respond with their name and tell you a little bit about the event or the association. This is the way to open a conversation. You are finding something that you have in common – – in this case, the food.
Effective Communication Techniques—Ask about them
The gold standard for networking is to ask more about the other person than you talk about yourself. Let’s go back to the conversation with Miss Scarlett and see how you can use these effective communication techniques.
“Scarlett, how long have you been doing what you’re doing?” Or you can ask variations such as these.
“What attracted you to this profession?”
“How long have you been with that firm?”
“I’m not very knowledgeable about what you do. Please tell me some more.”
The point is for you to have a series of questions you can ask Miss Scarlett to keep her talking. This is particularly important if you are an introvert and do not like talking to strangers anyway. When Miss Scarlett answers the question, you come back with follow-up questions. Make sure they are not yes or no questions.
“Who is the most interesting person you’ve met at these events?” Then you can always ask why that person is the most interesting.
“What are some of the best tips you’ve learned by coming to these events?”
“What do you like most about these meetings?”
Once Miss Scarlett has a handle on what you do, you might ask her, “Given what I’ve told you about what I do, who should I make a point to meet here this evening?”
Remember you are not trying to sell anything. You are looking for interesting people to start building a business relationship with.
Effective Communication Techniques—Listen and focus
When you are networking, the most effective communication technique is to listen to what other people say. Do not be looking over a person’s shoulder when that person is talking to you. Look him/her in the eyes.
Do not scan the room looking for someone else you’d rather talk to. It is okay to say, “Let’s see who’s here tonight and who we’d like to talk to.” Then the two of you look around the crowd and point out people you’d like to talk to.
If you know someone Miss Scarlett wants to talk to, offer to introduce her to that person. If Miss Scarlett says she sees Colonel Mustard and needs to catch up with him, it’s okay to ask her to introduce you to Colonel Mustard because he’s someone you’ve heard so much about.
Again you are not trying to sell anything. You are trying to meet people and begin building relationships.
Sometimes people ask how long they should speak to an individual before moving on. It depends on what your strategy and goal are for this event. See previous post.
How long is the networking session and how many people do you want to meet?
If the networking session is 30 min. and you have 3 people you’d like to meet, spend 5-7 min. talking to Miss Scarlett so she can get you to Colonel Mustard. Spend more time with Colonel Mustard, even if it means you don’t meet your other two targets. Quality beats quantity at any networking event.
If you spot a friend, invite him to join you. “Hey, Mrs. White, come join us. I’d like to introduce you to Miss Scarlett. I think you will enjoy talking with her.” Hang around for a couple more minutes and then excuse yourself because you see someone else you need to talk to.
My exit line for the situation is, “I’m so glad I could introduce you two. I see someone I need to talk to. I’ll leave you to carry on the conversation on your own.” That way you’re not leaving Miss Scarlett in a lurch, standing there all by herself.
Sneak preview of more effective communication techniques
Over the next few weeks, we’ll address these effective communication techniques and more.
- How do I approach a group?
- What do I say when introducing people?
- How and when should I ask for a business card?
- What do I say when someone just won’t shut up?
- What exit lines will allow me to leave gracefully?
- How and when should I follow up after meeting someone at an event?
When can I sell them on our services? NEVER
What questions do you have? What fear is holding you back from becoming a professional networker? Let us know and we’ll address that in upcoming posts.
© Pamela A. Scott, MentorLoft.com, 2017
P.S.: Training for effective communication techniques
Are you really intimidated by the idea of talking to strangers? Build up your networking muscles by using the following questions in situations where you feel safe–with a waiter, grocery store bagger, your dry cleaner, your Uber driver. They will actually like that you’re asking about them.
These questions, used with permission, come from Boaz Rauchwerger. They are guaranteed to get the other person talking about her favorite subject: herself.
- I’m just curious. Where are you from originally?
- What brought you here?
- Do you have a family?
- What do you do?
- What did you want to be when you were growing up?
And check out Boaz’s website. He is unbelievable!