Tired of the typical approach to networking? Hey who isn’t?
You go to an event and try to meet people. People are filtering you in or out based on your name tag, and deciding whether you are worth their time (hey, you know the undignified ‘sizing up’ look). Then, we engage in the awkward dance of “what do you do?” and, when people recite a litany of credentials, we feign interest until we see someone else we want to talk to. Or, when a new party joins the small group after we’ve finished our mutual “sniffing,” we make our rapid and grateful get-away! Yep, most approaches to networking aren’t authentic, fun or human. There is a better way.
Turn networking upside down with a few human tips that put people at ease and get better results. You’ll also have a lot more fun!
• Don’t ask “what do you do?” People are burned out on that question and it elicits a robotic response. Mix it up with the unexpected and you’ll get an unrehearsed, human answer. For example, try “What brings you here today?” I also use, “What do you do for fun besides networking events?” That gets a laugh and lightens the ‘serious’ mood. Perfect for having a great conversation.
• Make a human connection, not a contact. Asking ‘what do you do’ is about “sniffing” people out. Everyone knows “that awkward dance.” Instead, learn something about who they are, not what they do. Humor is a great way to break the ice and lighten the mood. For example, write something unexpected on your nametag that prompts conversation. My married name is “Guest,” and I like to preempt the obvious, “Aren’t we all ‘guests?’” So I write Kathy “Be My” Guest! This usually yields a smile and a warm connection. I made a connection first. Now, people are more likely to listen!
• Be a connector. When you serve others, you show character. As you meet people, make it a point to connect them. Perhaps you met someone earlier that would be a great connection for the person you are talking to currently. When you facilitate a personal introduction for others, you create value and leave a great impression people will remember (unlike most 30-second ‘pitches.’ Ugh!).
• Don’t data-dump a list of services. People don’t want more “data,” they want a reason to care! Show them how you can help them or their clients by telling a brief story of how you leave clients better off. Use one recent example of how you helped a favorite client increase revenues, get a new client, or do something that matters. People remember stories, not services. Leave them wanting to get to know you, not bored out of their minds! No one cares about your list of services.
• Always be you. If you’re trapped in an uncomfortable conversation, be gracious, extend a thank you and move on. Contacts based on inauthenticity aren’t true connections, and won’t yield good business.
• Write something personal about each person you meet on the business card they give you. When you follow-up, always personalize your emails and LinkedIn invites. This demonstrates that you are interested in a genuine two-way connection, and it increases your response rates.
Inject a human element into networking and you’ll get better results. How do you make networking more human and more successful? I’d love to know. firstname.lastname@example.org