The following is my second article on business networking in the Tennessean newspaper. You can find the original published on September 12th on their site. Thanks for reading this and sharing it with your friends. I enjoyed a mixer event this week put on by NAMA, the Nashville Chapter of the North American Marketing Association. (Full disclosure: I am a board member.) The event was a fun opportunity to mix with marketers from the Greater Nashville area. It also inspired this article.
I am often intrigued by listening to the conversations occurring around me at different events. Small talk is not as easy in practice as you may think.
Here are two words you should focus on before your next networking event: FORD and LISTEN.
FORD is an acronym that stands for family, occupation, recreation and dreams. If you are looking for an ice-breaker, look no further than these four words. Choose one to ask someone about and it will surely lead you into an interesting conversation.
The second acronym is LISTEN. This stands for look interested, involve yourself by responding, stay on target, test your understanding, evaluate the message and neutralize the feelings.
When you ask the person you meet a question, you must look interested in their reply. Look them in their eyes (don’t stare) and truly listen to what they are telling you. Involve yourself by smiling, nodding and responding. Add short interjections such as “I see,” “go on” and “interesting.” Add a follow-up question such as, “What did you do next?” or “How did that make you feel?”
Stay on target by not allowing yourself to be distracted during a conversation. Do this by picturing the speaker as the only person in the room. Do your best not to look away, at your watch or phone, or over their shoulder as they are speaking to you.
Test your understanding by repeating what the person has told you in a conversational manner: “So what you are saying is,” and “So if I understand correctly you are ...” These are helpful phrases to begin with.
Evaluate what the person has said. Take a moment to consider the information you have received. Think about how you can follow up to assist this person.
Can you make an introduction for them to one of your LinkedIn contacts? Should you email them tomorrow to invite them for a coffee so you can learn more about their needs?
It can happen. We can meet someone who rubs us the wrong way. Perhaps they have given you incorrect information that you know to be untrue. Neutralize your feelings. Don’t put them on the spot by correcting them. This can make the person uncomfortable. Instead, you can thank them for their time, shake their hand and move on to a new conversation.
Networking shouldn’t feel like work. By asking great conversation-starting questions and listening effectively, you will become a better networker. I go into great detail about these topics and more in my book, New Business Networking, but I hope this article leaves you inspired to attend a local event and meet new people soon.
The final note I want to leave you with is to remember to follow up. You should always send an email to tell the person you enjoyed meeting them. Consider the next step in the email, is there a way you can help them? You should also include a LinkedIn connection request to grow your professional network.
More on LinkedIn here. Now get out there and meet some people.
How do you break the ice when you meet new people?
Photo by Jay Morrison
The article, "Make the most of your next mixer", originally appeared in The Tennessean newspaper.