Entry Strategies: How to Start an Effective Networking Conversation
One of the most common challenges I hear from clients is, “I don’t know what to say or how to start a conversation when I walk into a room full of strangers.”
For most people having the perfect opening line does not come easy. If you’ve already used up most of your courage to show up for the event, get yourself out of your car and into the networking event, knowing what to say can feel extremely daunting.
Simply put, trying to insert yourself in a networking conversation can be really painful. BUT, it doesn't have to be!
Let me share 3 simple tools you can use to be in and out of a conversation as quickly as the conversation warrants.
#1: The first tip is to HAVE A set of OPEN ended QUESTIONS that embody the ASK Concept. Remember ASK stands for - Always Seek the Knowledge of others so your first question should always inquire about the person or people you’re meeting with the intention of learning something about them. The more information you can gather about others the more opportunities you can possibly serve/help them and that is the basis of all strong relationships.
“Hi, I’m Alyce Blum. How can I help connect you to the people you’re ideally looking to meet?”
This question is open-ended, empowering and action oriented. Not to mention it’s all about the other person I’m connecting with and gives them an opportunity for me to help them achieve their networking goals. Ideally, they would also ask me a few open-ended questions that could serve my professional needs as well, but if they don’t at least I can walk away from the situation knowing I was operating from a place of giving and serving and did my best to lay the foundation for long-term relationships.
#2: The second tip is be an ACTIVE LISTENER by removing distractions, using your prepared questions and focusing on one person at a time.
It’s easy to get caught up in our own thoughts or to be thinking of our next question. You’re smart, so trust yourself and actually listen when someone is speaking to you!
*Pro Tip* - If you know that you’re easily distracted, try setting up 1:1 networking situations and pick environments that have less distractions so you can stay focused on what the other person is saying and truly be an active listener.
#3: The third tip is BE PROACTIVE AND GRACIOUS. If the conversation is over, or you can sense that it’s no longer serving the person you’re connecting with or no longer helping you achieve your networking goals then it’s 100% appropriate and ok to MOVE ON!
Yes, I’m giving you permission to find a way to gracefully exit the conversation and take control of the remaining time and energy you have left at any given networking event. Forcing yourself to stay in a conversation where you’re not able to serve others or be served is a waste of everyone’s time. Learning how to set clear boundaries for your time while networking doesn't make you selfish or rude, in fact just it’s the opposite. It’s smart, courageous and the appropriate thing to do since time is our most precious resource.
Try the following if you need a little help learning how to gracefully exit a conversation:
First, look them straight in the eye and say, “It’s been nice to meet you and get to know you a little bit. Thank you for sharing your time with me, I set a goal to connect with 3 more people tonight so I hope you enjoy the rest of the event.” Shake their hand and exit!
Trust me if you say that sincerely and graciously there won’t be any awkwardness and you’ll have regained your time to make the most of your networking experience.
*Stay tuned next month for more tips on how to gracefully exit networking conversations!*
My challenge to you is to share your best open ended question or the most authentic sentence you use to start a networking conversation. Share these sentences on my business facebook page, by clicking here. I can’t wait to read what works for you! In doing this you’ll be gifting anyone who looks at these sentences great ideas and options to use the next time they’re networking!
As always Stay Connected!