Why do people hate networking events? Usually it's full of people who are all talking small. "How's business?" " There's a lot of people here." "How's the food?" "That's a great tie."
Shoot me now. We all hate these events - executives, vendors, and business owners alike. Unfortunately, we've been told that we have to go to them to grow our business. And they're right.
You have to regularly break out of your bubble and meet new people. Interact and market your product/service to get traction.
But how many events have you attended early in the morning or late into the evening that just sucked? Tons.
I have a technique to make them Powerful, Engaging, & Fun. Here are some of the things I do to dump the small talk and have courageous conversations:
1. Take An Avid Interest In The Person You're Speaking To.
Most of the time, people are only thinking of themselves. In fact, many people closely listen to what you're saying only to anticipate a pause so they can talk.
Take the time to LISTEN to what the other person is saying and frequently add energizing sounds and body language to keep them going.
Paraphrase what they just said and insert a follow-up question to dig deeper into what they are commenting on.
2. Act Like A Host.
What do hosts do? They make their guests feel comfortable, at home, start fun conversations, and selflessly connect people together to build a strong networking circle of professionals.
What's wrong with acting like a host (even if you aren't the host) and helping your fellow attendees accomplish all of these goals?
I love to walk up to a group and ask everyone how they like the wine/food/room — they always positively comment and immediately invite me into their conversation. Try it.
3. Talk About Scary Subjects.
Instead of the weather, think of assertive, strong questions to get people out of their shell. Some I've used:
"So, what's your big project for 2017? How's it going so far?" "What new things are you trying to launch?" "Favorite super-power: Flying or X-Ray Vision?" (I love this one - ask me how it works) "Did you hire anyone new this year? What was the one quality that shined for you?" "What client do you absolutely despise? Why? Why don't you fire them?" "What's the scariest thing you've done in the past few years?"
Now understand, some of these work with new acquaintances — some will only work with friends or when you've conversed for a certain amount of time.
4. Open Up.
Once you've made an initial connection, try to open up and talk about serious topics. Once you get to know the, let them know that you just lost a client or that the product you just launched isn't doing that great (as an example). Being honest and authentic is so much better than fake and boring.
5. It Not All About YOU.
Don't go there only looking for business. In fact, frame your perspective around helping others. "I am going to try to connect everyone I meet to someone I know to help them build their business/career."
Givers Gain — make sure to try to help everyone (okay - not everyone - there are some lost causes in every bunch).
If you try just one of these — you will transform your typical, boring networking event into an exciting and memorable soirée. Be Courageous!