Part 7 pushed you to actually walk away from shallow conversations, because they are wasting your time. Too often we find ourselves stuck in a comfort zone in mindless conversation simply because it’s easy and does not challenge us. These conversations are not productive and do not build new opportunities.
This blog posting wraps up the series addressing a novel way to approach attending business networking events that have become known for elusive results. With careful planning and mindful determination, you can attend these networking events expecting and, more importantly, getting positive results.
Some ideas thrown out in this series
• Take 5 business cards- no more than 5
• Forget your elevator pitch- mentally block it out
• Memorize your name- seriously!
• Prepare 2 to 3 discovery questions- use these to ‘listen’
• Plan on only speaking to 5 people- hold meaningful conversations
• Excuse yourself from shallow conversations- they are wasting your time
Most of these ideas are intuitive when you really think about them, but somewhat unconventional in theory.
Traditional thought has been to
• Carry as many business cards as possible- you can never have enough
• Always be prepared to give your elevator pitch- memorized cold
• Sell, Sell, Sell- if you do not tout yourself who will
• Speak to as many people as you can- shot gun theory to socializing
In Part 2 I advised against taking too many business cards with you, simply to keep yourself from the temptation to hand them out randomly. Whether you actually only take 5 cards or a few more, you will be more mindful of your interactions and any business card exchanges are going to be more meaningful.
Part 3 encouraged you to forget your elevator pitch. The central idea here is not literally to forget your elevator pitch, but more to not walk around the event with it sitting on the tip of your tongue. Too many times people have fallen victim to blurting out their elevator pitch before they even found out key information about the person they were engaging with. Before I rattle too many cages here, I must remind you, I am NOT advocating to NOT have an elevator pitch. I am just saying there is a place and a time for one.
Initially focus on engaging the person you are speaking with and seeing if there is a possibility of developing something beyond a soon-to-be-forgotten introduction. Within your conversation you will figure out if you need to give a ‘version’ of your elevator pitch, and you can go from there. I promise you that few long-standing professional relationships started with an elevator pitch.
In Part 4 I tried to grab your attention by suggesting that you needed to memorize your name. Here the focus was on encouraging you to pre-know yourself really well. In a way this is similar to the idea of the elevator pitch, in that you have to know your own story really well. In new situations where we have to think quickly, it is very easy to get tongue-tied or to draw a blank. If you have taken time to really know your own story, not just what you want in life tomorrow, but where you have come from, then ideally you should be able to engage in conversations smoothly.
Then Part 5 discussed the need to prepare 2 to 3 discovery questions ahead of time. Over time you should be able to almost wing this part. Those of you who actively engage others by getting them to talk about themselves, you do this naturally. For many people, this is not so natural.
In this blog you were encouraged to only ask those questions that would lead to answers you might actually care about knowing. It is too easy to just drift away to another part of the day when we are in conversations. This is NOT the time to let your mind wonder. For myself, I find it much easier to fully listen AND actually remember what they told me, when the other person is talking about something interesting.
Discovery questions are very important. The answers that people will give you, will start to form the foundation of knowledge you build about the other person. Your ability to retain this knowledge is key. Going forward this foundation of knowledge is what you will continue to pull on to engage further. Few things go further than when someone realizes that you actually listened, but more importantly, that you remembered information about them that they shared with you!
Part 6 is another one of the ideas where I see a lot of eyebrows raise up when people hear this for the first time. In this blog I advise that you should only speak to 5 people, or basically to hold no more than 5 separate meaningful conversations. If this is all you hear than the central idea is lost. The main idea here is to limit the number of deep meaningful conversations you have which ultimately require a post-event deliverable from you. Conversations by themselves are no problem. But conversations where you promise to follow-up, or where you have some form of commitment later, these are the ones to keep to a manageable level.
Most of us attend networking events looking for new opportunities, but at the same time we have pre-existing business already. If you were to hit the jackpot and talk to 10 people with 10 separate opportunities, more than likely you are going to be doing well just to follow-up with 4 or 5 of these in any kind of meaningful way. Again, I come back to the brand of you. Every time you promise more than you can deliver, you are damaging your own brand. It is ironic that we go to these events with the idea of building our brand, but many people unintentionally hurt their brand by taking on more than they can handle.
Finally in Part 7 I pushed you to actually walk away from shallow conversations, because they are wasting your time. Too often we find ourselves stuck in a comfort zone in mindless conversation simply because it’s easy and does not challenge us. These conversations are not productive and do not build new opportunities.
By themselves, mindless conversations are a welcome respite over martinis at happy hour on Thursday or Friday nights with close friends forgetting the stress of the week. However, if you have made the effort to go to a business networking event and you are there to network then getting caught up in these conversations can be distracting.
The six central themes in this series are not quite as novel as they initially seem. However, they can be some of the easiest to overlook. By intentionally focusing on managing YOU as a brand, then your approach to business networking events will start to take on a purpose of its own.
Showing a keen interest in the person you are listening to, and engaging in meaningful conversations is a good place to start. If you truly want to stand out against the last few conversations someone has had, practice listening closer and asking questions that bring out the other person’s personal stories. More importantly remember what is told to you. This one small step goes a long way- try it next time you are speaking with someone new.
Go forth and build new strong authentic intentional relationships.
Until our paths cross again,