Moving around at a networking event can be daunting for many people. The courage to show up, walk in, grab a refreshment and talk to someone is a major achievement! The next challenge occurs when you find yourself in a corner surrounded by people, in a boring conversation, or a person is clinging to you and you feel trapped. Here are some practical strategies for successful networking.
1. Use your Body
If you feel boxed in you have three choices. The first one is to say “Hey, how did we get into this stuffy corner, let’s move?” The second is to move to a more open spot. The third is to steer the group’s comfort zones. Start taking small steps over the course of a few minutes. It’s like a slow dance, take a step forward and the other person will move away from you to maintain their comfort zone distance. Take another step a minute or so later and they will unconsciously move again. If you do it too fast or take big steps, they will be aware of your actions. Try it next time you are in a group. It’s amazing how people react to being too close and how they easily respond.
2. Directing and Changing Conversation
Most people think their first conversation is the one they have to stick with for the entire night. No so. In fact, if you are serious about using your time wisely, be conscious and ‘awake’ to key words, relevant news or industry happenings. Next create conversation that relates to you, your product/service or your key message. I have a number of standard questions to start a conversation. They are: ‘What’s the best thing about your business at the moment?’ Or ‘In the last week, can you think of a moment that made you laugh?’ Or ‘If you could fix one thing in your business, what would it be?’ These questions allow individuals to share a little about their world. It steers the group away from gossip and negative conversation. In the mortgage broking business a question I would ask of potential clients would be: ‘So, here’s a dreamer’s question, if you were able to buy a house, what type would it be and where?’ Anyone with a clear answer to that question has been thinking about buying or building a house and they are ready for you to ask them more about it. What could your standard questions be? You need a few that are easy to say and remember.
3. Being the Leader
If you find yourself in a one-on-one conversation with a person clinging to you, not wanting to leave, they obviously feel comfortable with you and you are rescuing them from the scary task of meeting someone new. You have to take charge here and lead them. The best way to do this is to face the room and say to them, “We came here to network, out of the groups before us, which one will we join?” Then choose a group and enter the new circle. You will have joy and relief as they will talk to the person on their left and you talk to the person on your right. You are successfully out of the clinging conversation and have helped the clinger expand their confidence and connections. You can master these three strategies to move through the room and groove in the conversation. So, what are you waiting for? Register today for young professionals, chambers of commerce, business or industry networking events where your ideal clients will be and go for it!