Some of you very kindly got in touch with me last week after my previous blog and asked me what exactly I say regarding the open 7 x W questions, how I deliver them, and my body language, so I thought I would answer you via a full blog post on networking effectively!
When you go to a networking event, please leave your agenda behind, and go and make friends by making the effort to get to know people! See if you can help them! Remember, if people don’t know you, they won’t like you, if they don’t like you, they won’t trust you, if they don’t trust you, they won’t buy from you or refer business with you! People love talking about themselves so let them talk! (If you wish, print off the delegates list or ask for it in advance, and pick out up to 3 people you absolutely want to speak to, research them and then find and speak to them!).
Body language accounts for over half of what is perceived about what we are trying to say. When I am at a networking event, I go in looking smart casual (jeans, shirt, shoes), with happy thoughts, smiling, with an open stance, arms relaxed, either clasped in front or behind me, gesticulating when talking. I lean in, shake hands, and make firm but friendly eye-contact when engaging in conversation with people, showing a real interest in what they are saying.
I am always happy, positive, excited, energetic and genuinely interested in who I am speaking to! When I speak, I never speak in a monotone and make sure that I am enjoying speaking and listening to myself! Your tone is louder than your words and your message, so make it count!
I enjoy making polite conversation, simple small talk, to break the ice and begin getting to know something about the person I am speaking with. I tend to keep most of my questions, open-ended and always deliver them in a relaxed manner, using the Ws when needed. I always introduce myself and then make it about them. My conversations go something like this:
“Hi, nice to meet you, I’m Bilal!”. This invites them to share their name with you. If you want to remember their names (even if they have a name badge on!), you lean forward and say “Nice to meet you, John!”. Then I make small talk to relax things, “So, whereabouts are you from?”, “Cool, are you from there?”, try to relate to them by finding something in common with them, this makes it more relaxed and informal. Then you can ask, “So, what brought you here?”, followed by, “Cool, so what is it that you do?”.
After they have told me what they do, they will be curious about me, so the conversation will switch to me, and it’s my time to shine! However, I prefer to flicker briefly to make them even more curious and ask me more questions about me! So, I share with them very briefly what I do, with my short elevator pitch, and say:
“I have 3 businesses, a consultancy in the pharmaceutical industry, a compliant medical social media agency, and a lifestyle business. Across all my businesses, we aim to help make the lives of our clients and team easier, and help them save and make money”. If they ask me to elaborate a little more on my businesses, I do, but I never ever go into full brain dump mode, even if it is tempting sometimes! Don’t get me wrong, I do talk and share my opinions, but I make sure the person I am speaking to is doing most of the talking, and afterwards, they love having spoken to me! I’m there to make friends, and by pitching everyone I meet, I won’t make any friends! It’s bad for business! At the end of the conversation, if I have enjoyed speaking with them, I will tell them, and say:
“It’s been a pleasure speaking with you John, are you on LinkedIn?”, they usually say yes and we connect using our smartphones. If not, I take their business card and say I will send them an email, and then make sure I do send them an email! I tend not to carry business cards because we have social media! I have a big box of every business card I have ever received which I open rarely, hence why I always tend to contact via LinkedIn or other social media!
For me, networking is second nature, I do it naturally where I am, but it is an art that can be learned! Just take a deep breath, compose yourself, prepare and then DO! Remember, make networking about others, not you!
Let me know how you get on 🙂