Networking Isn't About You!

Nov 14, 2018

I know, shocking right?!  Everything we’ve been taught about networking is about how YOU should talk about YOU.  We’re told to have an elevator pitch and how to make it intriguing to the person you tell it to.  We are instructed to have a good handshake and carry cards (I still suck at this).  

This approach is flawed for two reasons.  One, some people aren’t comfortable talking about themselves and therefore totally dislike networking events and avoid them.  The other problem is that people don’t really want to be pitched to like that.

Be Curious

Instead of trying to sell people on YOU, be curious about them.  Walk into the networking event with the mantra “be curious”.  Of course, you can start with the standard “what do you do?” question but get curious from there.  If you don’t know anything about their industry or what they do, ask them more about it.  You can also ask them what got them into that industry or what they like about what they do.

If you know the person you’re speaking to, you will quickly ask “how are you” and they will say “good”.  We all do that and it’s boring but it’s like dogs sniffing each other’s butts, it’s just what naturally happens.  To keep the conversation going, have a few questions in your back pocket.  Once you get the conversation going you will really start to connect and build a relationship.  Asking about their family is natural - usually, we ask “how are the kids” but you can make this more interesting by asking “what are your kids into these days”.  Another great topic is the season or travel, questions like “what are you doing for the holidays” or  “are you planning to get away this summer” can be great ways to get into a good conversation.

Having one to two questions prepped in your mind will help you dive into a deeper conversation and really connect with the person you’re speaking with.

Be Honest

Let’s be clear, I’m not saying you should ditch your elevator pitch.  In fact, you should have a clear and concise way of explaining what you do.  It should also be genuine.  By that, I mean that you should include a personal touch, not just a rehearsed couple of lines with stats or a promise of some kind that the other person may not even care about.

Here’s an example: A photographer could say “I’m a pregnancy and newborn photographer and I always get the best shot”.  Boring and duh - you’re a professional, I hope you do… Instead, you could say “I’m a pregnancy and newborn photographer, I just love that time in life and it’s an honour to capture it for my clients.”  So much better!  I still know what you do but I’m getting some insight into WHY you do what you do and that’s what really matters to me.

“Businesses are built on relationships”, “know, like and trust”, “People do business with those they trust” - these are just a few quotes I’ve heard a million times and that I know to be true.  If you’re clear about what you do but you also make an effort to really connect with people that is what will ultimately build your business because people want to know that you care before they do business with you.

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