“Nice to meet you.”
“Parking was awful.”
“Here’s my card.”
Ugh. If you cringe at the idea of repeating the same lines over and over, with no one saying anything of significance other than a few rote lines, don’t worry. You’re not alone. Even the most passionate of networkers hate the idea. Which is why they don’t engage in “small” talk.
Instead, they play a secret game when they are networking. It’s one where everyone wins. And no one gets bored - even the people who don’t know they’re playing. I do it all the time. It’s called the “In Common Game.”
The point to networking is to meet people, spend time with them, find ways to help them and build a long term, mutually-beneficial relationship. An important part of this process is to stay connected with those new people you’ve met. For most people, this is the hard part. Staying connected. Keeping in touch. Maintaining a relationship. It’s hard work. It’s even harder when the link to someone new began with a discussion of the weather and whether you found a close place to leave your car. There’s an easier way to stay connected.
Make a better connection to begin with. That’s where the “In Common Game” comes in. If you have time for more than a few polite words with someone, you should spend the entire conversation trying to find out what you have in common with them.
Don’t be obvious about it! I could imagine Sheldon Cooper being very methodical and asking, “What are your hobbies? Please list them in order of your level of interest in them so that we may find the common factor of the most importance.” (Actually, this is one of the steps in the Friendship Algorithm.) No. You want to be circumspect about it.
Bring up an interest of your own in a roundabout way. “Too bad it’s going to be so hot this weekend, I’m running the Father’s Day 5K and the heat makes it a lot less fun.” This is their big clue. Either they’ll latch on to the weather aspect, they’ll tell you they think runners are crazy (not good networking but that’s another blog post entirely), or they’ll tell you all about their latest running exploits. If it’s the latter, voila! You’ve got something in common. If it’s the other reactions, keep moving forward, change the topic and try alluding to another interest of yours.
You can also be more direct, in an indirect way. “So, did you have a good weekend? Do anything fun?” It’s almost like cheating. Because you’ve given them permission to tell you about something they are passionate about since most of us live for the weekend when we get to do what we want.
Listen intently. Ask more questions. Let them talk for as long as it takes, until you hit on something that you both enjoy. Once you find out that you both love collecting exotic orchids, you’ve built a better connection. The relationship will always have a foundation for connecting, reconnecting and building on. You’ll be unique in their mind and they, in yours. You’ll have a bond which will create a common ground for developing a relationship build on knowing them, liking them and trusting them. That’s someone who will be a wonderful and helpful part of your network for years to come.
Beth Bridges is the Networking Motivator. She developed the Five Part Networking Success Plan after attending over 2,000 networking events in nine years. She is the author of the forth-coming book "Networking on Purpose: Five Simple Parts to Building a Powerful and Profitable Business Network." You can connect with Beth on Facebook at http://www.Facebook.com/TheNetworkingMotivator
Beth Bridges is the Networking Motivator (tm)
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