Over the years I have been to a lot of networking events, where pushy people spend a few minutes speaking at me (and not listening) then give me a business card. They seemingly want to ensure that I know who they are and what they do. Sadly they just leave a very poor impression and it is highly unlikely I would do business with them (and the card goes in the bin).
By contrast, I have had a lot of very positive experiences where I meet someone who shows a genuine interest in me, and what I do, and we have a very interesting conversation where we both listen to one another, and find areas of common interest, and as a result I want to know more about them, and always ask for their business card.
If you want to improve, here are my five networking tips which will encourage people to ask for your business card:
Listen Really Well
If you network with the mindset of “what interesting things can I learn from others?” then you will be curious to listen and learn more about them. When someone feels listened to, they feel validated, and that postiive feeling means they are highly likely to ask for your business card.
Be clear about your niche
To make you and your business stand out from the crowd, its important to be clear about your niche. What makes your business different? Is it the type of clients you serve, geographical location or customer service? Once you know what it is, make sure you include this in how you describe what you do to other people to help make you memorable.
Find a common connection
The purpose of building rapport with someone is to encourage them to feel “I am like you”. We can get that feeling through finding a common connection, and then its easier to begin to build trust, which is core to developing relationships. Do you both enjoy good food, or play hockey, or work in the same sector? By listening well and knowing how to describe your niche, it can help you find the connection. Then as you get to know the person you will be able to help them if you spot something that you know might be of interest in an article or social media, and it gives you a reason to follow up with them later.
Be a great conversationalist
The art of good conversation seems to have been overtaken by social media and bite sized communication in 140 characters or less, where we seem to be on “transmit” rather than “recieve”. Spend time learning the art of asking great questions that prompt people to stop and think, and that way you are adding value, and being distinctive. Find out something about the type of people who are attending the event, and keep up to date on current news so that you can introduce a point into the conversation by asking a question such as “what do you think about this……?” People also love stories, so find a way to tell a story about something that happened e.g a client had this problem, we found a solution by thinking about x, and now they are able to do y”. By having a great conversation, people will want to follow up with you.
Use your connections
In any network, there are those who have useful connections whom they are able to refer on to people they meet. For example, I was speaking to a person at an event who was setting up a women’s network in the regional office of a financial services company. I knew another contact who ran a women’s network in another firm in the same sector, so I suggested that I could introduce her and maybe she would be able to get some ideas and advice from someone who had done this before. So listen for the opportuntities where you can help others and by being useful to them, they will want to keep connected to you.