Part 5 encouraged you to come up with and use 2 to 3 discovery questions that would allow you to learn key things about the other person. Asking just any discovery question is not good enough. First, you should actually be interested in the topic and answer. Second, your focus is to learn enough about the other person in order to find connection points where you can engage them further.
Again, for those of you who might be new to my blog posts, everything you will read here is geared towards long-term results. If you are seeking a quick fix or a solution for something with a pending deadline, then this blog is probably not for you.
Plan on Only Speaking to 5 People- Hold Meaningful Conversations
The idea of only talking with 5 people ties directly into Part 2. In Part 2 I suggested only taking 5 business cards. Just like focusing on exchanging business cards when there is a clear meaningful reason, choose wisely which conversations to engage further and which ones to politely cut off.
Should you limit yourself to a lower number of meaningful conversations in every setting? Not at all. Remember, in this 8 part series I am discussing ways of maximizing value at business networking events. There are many situations where you would not want to limit the number of conversations to just 5. Also, there are going to be networking events where this guide would not make sense either.
What Is A Conversation?
This is important to distinguish. According to the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, conversation is the “oral exchange of sentiments, observations, opinions, or ideas.”
Only 5 People, Really?
Yes. With certain exclusions, of course. Quick or casual conversations with people you may already know, which either deal with current ongoing business or catching up do not count towards the limit of 5 people. In these situations you are not discovering anything new, and most likely you are not starting anything new either. You are just continuing existing or ongoing business.
The idea here is to focus on limiting the number of new people you are engaging in conversations where there could be a deliverable. Think back to the last time your to-do list was so long you could not meet deadlines. Each time you miss deadlines, regardless the excuses you come up with, you chip away at your credibility and brand value.
When engaging in new conversations that require some kind of follow-up, be mindful of your current schedule and deliverables. As long as your schedule permits you to follow-up in a timely manner and meet all your current and new deliverables, you are fine. In order to maintain and strengthen your own brand value, do not over commit.
Does the 5 People Rule Apply to Everyone All the Time?
No. Your actual number will shift over time- both up and down.
Hold fewer than 5 new conversations when your schedule is so tight that you literally have to schedule each new lunch, dinner, or meeting more than 2 weeks into the future. If this is you, then you just might be too busy to take on new business or even new deliverables. Remember, once you meet someone, if you are going to stay top-of-mind, you need to follow-up.
Hold more than 5 new conversations if you have just finished with a huge project that has kept you buried for the last 3 to 6 months. In this case your schedule might be quite free. Here you probably can handle more than 5 people, because your schedule will actually permit you to follow-up with everyone.
When I Reach 5 Conversations, Do I Just Leave?
No, not necessarily. We go to business networking events to make new contacts and expand our network. This expansion could be new business, people to add to a newsletter list, or new people we know we want to interact with in some capacity going forward.
Once you have reached your limit for following-up and maintaining your new relationships, just augment your approach to any new conversations. Just because you have reached your limit, do not cut off your nose to spite your face!
If the event is still going on and your energy level is such that you are still in talking mode, then by all means keep talking. The difference here is that now you should start to focus on capturing people’s names and learning about them, but not in the capacity of doing business now.
The take away from this blog post is to be mindful of the number of new people you meet at a business networking event. Before you arrive know what your schedule capacity is for taking on new contacts and possible deliverables. Gauge whether your number is more than 5 or less, and try to stick to that.
Meet people with purpose and always follow through with anyone you make a commitment to. Remember, you are building and maintaining the brand that is YOU.
Below are the remaining topics for this series.
Part 7: Excuse yourself from shallow conversations- they are wasting your time
Part 8: Wrap-Up
Until our paths cross again,