Does the idea of networking in a room full of strangers scare you?
You’re not alone. Even the most extroverted people find networking a bit intimidating. .But often that is because they fear their attempts to meet, greet and network will come off as being pushy or aggressive, and that others will be offended.
The good news is that if you are networking effectively, other’s won’t even notice.
And you won’t feel so uncomfortable either.
So what’s the secret?
The secret to effective networking is to do the most natural things you would do with anyone whom you want to get acquainted: Ask questions about who they are, what they do, and what they like.
Building relationships with others that are either potential clients, or could refer potential clients to you, is usually centered around a 3-step process:
They need to:
1. get to know you
2. get to like you
3. get to trust you
So where do you start in this process when networking in a group of strangers?
Most everyone enjoys talking about themselves a bit. And by asking questions to others you give them some permission to “brag” about themselves. It invites them to engage with you and to let their guard down a little.
What kind of questions should you ask?
What’s important is to ask questions that are open-ended. Asking closed-ended questions that corner a person to say “yes” or “no”, for instance, won’t spark up a conversation. In fact, the silence between closed-ended questions like that can make a good networking opportunity dissolve quickly.
Here are 7 questions to consider:
- What do you like most about your work?
- How would you describe your ideal customer or customer or client?
- What changes new trends, development or changes to you see coming down the road in your market/industry?
- What has has been kind significant changes have you seen happen in your line of work, industry, marketplace in the last few years?
- How did you get started in your line of work?
- What is the most interesting or exciting project you are working on (or have worked on)?
- What differentiates your company, product/service from others who do similar kinds of work?
Granted you probably don’t want to interrogate and ask one person all these questions in one 15-minute exchange at the next chamber of commerce luncheon. But having a list of questions like this in your mind before you show up to a function will help you prepare — and give you confidence about business networking.
You’ll also be able to get to know some folks, engage in some memorable conversations, and perhaps exchange a business card to possibly continue contact later.