Yes, I'm talking to you!
I'm talking to the person that walks around the networking event asking everyone their name what they do for a living.
The answer to both of those questions is ... who cares?
When you ask me those questions, it's really just a generically boring ice-breaker ... all you're trying to do is get a conversation going so that you can tell me what you do for a living and hopefully I'll buy from you. As soon as I've told you my name, you already forgot it and when I tell you what I do for a living, you're just sizing up my answer to see if I would be a good fit for whatever you're peddling. Sound familiar? I thought so ...
And that, my friends, is why networking gets a bad rap.
In the scenario that I described above, there is not much room for a true connection point. It doesn't mean that it won't happen, but you're limiting the opportunity from the get-go.
True networking happens when you're able to establish a personal connection with a complete stranger.
I know ... it's much easier said than done, but there is a bit of a formula to it.
First and foremost, stop being boring. Stop asking what people do for a living and focus on what really matters ...
... their story.
Who is this stranger standing in front of you? How did they end up in the same room at the same time as you? What are their interests, passions and hobbies and what is their "why?"
These are the things that truly matter.
So the question I would encourage you to lead with is "what's your story?"
Most of the time, they will look at you with a bit of a confusion and proceed to tell you what they do. After all, they probably didn't read this blog and don't understand what's happening. They have been trained to only talk shop at a networking event ...
... help them get out of that boring box!
After listening to what they do, politely say, "that's great ... but I asked what your story is ... where are you from, how did you end up at this event ... what are you interested in?"
This interaction right here, is what true networking is about. You're making friends. You're getting to know strangers on a personal level. You're actually making a connection that can turn into a mutually beneficial relationship.
People love talking about themselves and this is a great ice-breaker to let them do just that ...
You become more interesting to people when you seem interested in them. Show that you are genuinely interested in who they are as a person as opposed to just what they do for a living. That conversation will happen naturally after the initial connection, so there is no reason to lead with it.
I'll leave you with this famous quote that I'm sure you've heard, but can always hear again as a refresher ...
“I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” - Maya Angelou
When we think of networking, we don't typically think of numbers ...
... but when it comes to networking and relationship building, 7 is the magic number!
The rule of 7 is one of the oldest concepts in marketing and basically says that the potential buyer needs to hear or see a brand's marketing message at least 7 times before they are ready to buy.
The same concept applies to networking ...
When you meet someone, they need to have 7 interactions with you before you actually register on their radar as someone they "know." You might meet someone and have incredible chemistry just from one event ... but that still doesn't mean your new friend is ready to buy from you.
Nowadays, it's very easy to achieve 7 interactions ... here are some examples:
1) You meet at the event
2) You follow up with an email
3) You connect on LinkedIn
4) You interact with a LinkedIn post that your new contact posted
5) You send your new contact an email with relevant information to their industry (or something you think he/she would find interesting)
6) If you're an active networker, maybe you see them at another event
7) You have a phone conversation or event meet up for coffee
In a nutshell, if you're trying to get on someone's radar, make it a point to have 7 interactions with them as a way to start building a solid relationship!