Networking Starts With A Conversation

IMG_0018Happy Fourth of July! You may engage in celebrating today’s holiday as a party host or guest and either way, you’ll have the pleasure of expanding your social and possibly also your professional network.  From backyard barbecues to weddings, the meet and greet is on, for business or pleasure. Whether you are an introvert or an extrovert, you will feel more at ease if when you encounter new people you can draw from a little repertoire of conversation starters that you can easily recall.

Here’s a list of conversation starters designed to make your summer celebrations a little more fun.  Keep in mind that when you approach a party guest, or a guest approaches you, smile and show that you welcome that person’s presence and you’d like to converse. While you might encounter the rare monosyllabic type who is too awkward to make small talk, in which case you can smile and slip away as quickly as socially acceptable, most partygoers and attendees at social or business functions are primed to meet and get acquainted with interesting people.  They’ll meet you halfway and together, you’ll create the conversation. You will likely be joined by others and that’s all for the good.

  1. Hi, I’m ______; and you are…? Nice to meet you! Do you live in the neighborhood ?
  2. Hi, I’m ______; and you are…? Nice to meet you! How do you know (the host)?
  3. Have you been having a good summer, so far?
  4. Do you like the summer holidays better, or winter holidays?
  5. Are you a summer vacation person, or a winter vacation person?
  6. I’m walking over to the drink table.  Can I bring you something?
  7. The buffet looks delicious (holding your plate and drink)—may I sit here?
  8. As you see, I’m checking out (the hosts’) books. They have a lot of good titles. Do you see something here that you’ve read?
  9. Who is that singing? Could it be Sarah Vaughan?
  10. OK, pop quiz–How many oceans are there on planet earth?

I hope you meet some good people both today and at the social and business functions that you’ll attend this summer and that you’re able to build one or two relationships that outlast the events you attend.  Relax and allow yourself to have a good time.

Show interest in the people you meet. Tailor your conversation topics to those with whom you are speaking. Don’t monopolize the conversation. Listen more than you talk and listen actively.  At some point in a lively conversation you may want to jump in with a witty retort, but try to avoid interrupting and one-upping.

Finally, don’t over-share and if you meet someone with whom it appears there could be a mutual interest to talk business, exchange cards and plan to follow-up a day or two after the party.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

 

 

 

The Power of Listening

Recently, I attended a reception at the women’s club where I’m a member.  When I attend programs, I make it a point to circulate and talk, usually joining three or four tables over the course of an event.  I’ve been fortunate to participate in dozens of conversations, meaningful and superficial, and I’ve formed some good relationships.  When in conversation, ideally, I listen more than I talk. That ebb and flow is the subtle dance of communication.

While in conversation, learning to keep one’s mouth shut and ears open, so that you can focus attention on the person who is speaking, requires mindfulness and discipline.  So often we do not really listen, we only pause, to formulate an answer that will help us win a debate or demonstrate expertise in the topic.  Conversation can become a game of one-upmanship, when we’re more interested in being clever, or seeming to be very wise or au courant.

When you take the time to listen, the ego must be set aside as you signal the unique value of the other person by allowing him/her to express thoughts and feelings, insights and knowledge.  You may appear to be passive but in reality, listening well is quite active.  When we listen with intention, most of our senses are activated.

We watch facial expressions and detect happiness, distress, interest, or boredom in the eyes and mouth and even the posture.  We hear the cadence of speech, the choice of words used and the tone of voice.  In this way, we take in the story as it is told and we begin to understand the other person’s values, worries, joys, competencies and humor.  Listening with conviction is the highest compliment that one can pay to another human being.  When we listen, we get to know people and build relationships.

Careful listening also allows you to grasp what a person does not say and that could be very revealing.  Hone your listening skills and learn to “listen between the lines,” so that you can more fully understand the motivations and perhaps hidden agendas of those with whom you interact.  Listen and get a sense of who is telling the truth and who is hiding behind a facade.  Whether you are in a negotiation with a client, interviewing a job candidate, or at dinner with someone you wonder if you should see again, listening well will guide your next steps.

Listening skills are a key ingredient of selling skills.  Listen carefully to your prospect and learn what is most important to him/her and then describe how your product or service will resolve the need and eliminate difficulties.  If you are a Freelance consultant who is interviewing with the hope of winning an assignment Dave Mattson, CEO and president of Sandler Training, the sales training firm, recommends that you get straight to the point and ask what three criteria define success for the project and then listen, and truly hear, the answer.  You will quickly discover whether you are a good fit for the project and what you must say and do to win it.

Finally, listening will allow you to adjust your style of communication to align with the person you are speaking with and that is a very important part of building trust, demonstrating proficiencies, telegraphing empathy and being persuasive, the building blocks of both good relationships and effective selling.  Essentially, your heightened listening will allow the two of you to speak the same language and that is the heart of effective communication.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

This Freelancer Walks Into a Bar and…

Here we are in the final week of summer and it is time to gently ease out of your summer torpor and take a few tentative steps toward ramping-up some business development skills—like networking, for example.  Networking takes many forms and it is something we do throughout the year, in all sorts of venues.  Yet September brings an onslaught of structured business networking opportunities, often in the form of conferences and workshops, making this time of year ripe for a meet & greet reboot.

It is likely that you’ll attend these functions alone and it’s also likely that you will not know anyone in the room, or at least not well enough to “latch on” during the event.  You will be on your own; how can you engineer a good outcome?  For starters, remember that Freelancers have a standard networking event agenda:

  • Get a client.
  • Get a referral source or collaborator.
  • Get information.

Meeting a potential client is a long shot, but it’s the most important agenda item, nevertheless.  Meeting a promising referral source or someone with whom you can collaborate is also a stretch, but the odds are better.  Learning something useful, whether from the program speaker or some helpful bit of information you pick up from someone you meet, is a reasonable bet.

So polish up your short-form elevator pitch.  Remember to smile and relax and be willing to meet new people.  Make note of these easy-to-roll out icebreaker conversation starters that will boost your networking ROI:

  1. Walk up to someone who is alone, smile and introduce yourself.   You’re in the room to network, so make a point to extend yourself. You could meet someone who is worth knowing and at the very least, you’ll make someone feel more comfortable and happy to be there. “Saving” someone is good karma.
  2. This is my first time attending this seminar. Are you a regular?    Showing a bit of vulnerability is both humanizing and courageous. You’ll demonstrate your command of the meet & greet ritual. This opening makes it easy to segue into further conversation.
  3. I admit I don’t know a lot about what (the sponsoring group) does. What other programs do they put on?    With this question, you’ll receive information that will help you evaluate the possibility of deepening your involvement with the host organization.
  4. That’s interesting. Tell me more.   People love talking about themselves. Showing genuine interest is flattering and most of all, validating. The seeds for a good and maybe even mutually beneficial relationship will be planted, even if you don’t encounter that person again for another year or two.
  5. Let me introduce you to… One of the best ways to position yourself as an influencer, as well as someone who is authentic and generous, is to introduce people who might be able to work together.
  6. Ask the speaker a good question.   Take notes during the presentation and raise your hand during the Q & A.  Attendees may seek you out after the talk. Feel free to approach the speaker as well. A good question showcases you as a smart person. Be careful not to hog the microphone.
  7. Hi, I’m (name).  That was a spot-on question you asked of the panelist. What do you think about (related topic)?    In this scenario,  you approach someone who asked the speaker an insightful question.
  8.  It’s been great meeting you. I see someone who’s on my list to meet and I’m going to take my leave. Thank you for being good to talk to.    Your exit strategy.

 

Have a good Labor Day weekend. Thanks for reading,

Kim