I have heard a lot of positive feedback to my “Tips to Successful Networking” series. In Part 1 which I posted Oct 3, 2013, I shared two tips: (1) Make it a habit to meet new people and not hang out with friends at networking events, (2) Start with the top – the president, vice-president, executive committee, and organizing team. In Part 2 which I posted Jan 18, 2014, I shared two tips: (3) Become an expert networker by becoming an executive committee member, (4) Network with everyone – regardless of background or culture. Here is part 3 of the series:
5. Finding topics to say
When I was a newbie networker, I was always afraid I’d have nothing to say and there will be an awkward moment at a networking event. The interesting thing is, the more you network and go to networking events, the more you have to say at the next event, because knowledge is accumulated like a snowball rolling down a hill which gets bigger and bigger.
For starters, it’s easy to find something to say about the event, the venue, how you found out about the event, and who brought you to the event.
When you listen carefully, when a person says a sentence there are usually two or three topics that can flow from that sentence alone. For example, let’s say the other person says:
“When I was travelling through Italy, I really liked their fashion and historic sites.”
There are at least 5 topics that can stem from this sentence. The topics that can flow from this sentence alone are: (1) travelling, (2) Italy, (3) hobbies/interests (triggered from “I really liked”), (4) fashion (in Italy or another country), (5) historic sites (in Italy or another country). Now you can choose to talk about travelling, the country of Italy (or Europe), hobbies and interests and/or your own experience of travelling to Italy, fashion, or historic sites.
At the high level of networking, you don’t really have to say much. Just get people to talk about themselves and they will gladly do so. I find that just nodding and saying “uh-huh” encourages them to keep talking. Sometimes, I don’t need to say anything and just encourage the other person to keep talking. After they finish talking, they say, “You are such a good conversationalist!” I didn’t really have to say anything. I just listened attentively and showed that I was interested. Another way to encourage people to keep talking is to repeat what they said. Let’s say for example, I just met a new friend James at a networking event:
James: “I’m a full-time MBA student from Germany.”
Me: “Germany. Wow! Tell me about that.”
James: “Yeah, Germany is…”
James: “I am part of the entrepreneur club.”
Me: “Entrepreneur club.”
James: “Yes, the entrepreneur club is great! It does…”
6. Do your friend a favour: introducing a friend to other people at networking events
When you are new to networking, you are probably being introduced by other people. However, when you have a good network or are familiar with the event and its people, you have the opportunity to introduce other people.
Introducing people is great – most people like to reciprocate and will gladly do the same for you, helping you build your network.
Say I’m talking to David, and my friend John walks up to join us. I’d say, “David, I’d like to introduce my friend John to you. John is an engineer by profession, and he likes to travel. He’s climbed Mount Everest! John, David is an accountant with Deloitte, and he likes to play golf. He’s been to over 30 different golf courses in 5 countries!”
By introducing David to John, I’ve opened up numerous topics for them to pick and continue the conversation: (1) engineering, (2) travelling, (3) accounting, (4) Deloitte (or any other professional firm), (5) golf (or any other recreational hobby), (6) how I knew David and John (i.e. David may say, “So Calvin, how did you know John?”)
A high level networking skill is to praise a person in front of other people. Most people will gladly reciprocate and do it for you, and it yields great benefits. It’s a great way to build credibility because having someone else praise a person is always better and more credible then one praising himself/herself. I could talk more about this in a future post – I think this post is long enough already!
Have fun networking!
Stay tuned for Part 4, which I will discuss:
7. Go ahead! Say “Hello” and initiate handshake!
8. Maintaining your network
9. The benefits of networking