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Over ‘net’working can be hazardous...strike the right balance

Mon 7 November 2011

Given that my business focuses on developing and growing businesses through effective business networking, then as you can imagine, I attend a significant amount of networking activities and get to meet a lot of people.

Clearly, I enjoy networking, for me, it’s a natural joy to meet new people, find out about them,  what they do and connect with them and if appropriate or when relevant, recommend their services – and connect people. 

In my previous blog posts to date, I’ve shared a number of tips and lessons that I’ve learned over the years, together with some basic skills.

However, one thing that as networkers we all need to consider is ... ‘don’t overdo it’.

Here’s what I mean by that...

Ever been to an event where someone makes a beeline for you, states a line (often a little bit of a clichéd one) such as, 

“Don’t I know you from somewhere, where do I know you from? What’s your name, what do you do... who do you know.”

Now, you’re pretty good with faces and names but you don’t recall meeting this person, ever.  And as it turns out – they can’t figure out how they know you either. Clearly, the approach was a ruse to get talking.

Getting talking is fine – but be careful how you go about that all important first approach. Being too direct can put others on the backfoot, being ‘cliched’, may give them the wrong first impression. 

Learning how to naturally open a conversation is an art – and one that must be mastered in the world of successful business networking.  A straight ‘Hi, what do you do?’ can be a bit stark or it could be perfect, dependent upon the situation. So go with the flow of the moment – it may be that first you can share a witty remark, or make a comment about the building you’re in, or parking, or your journey there or an interesting anecdote.  Be friendly, smile, relax, be natural – be yourself. When you’re yourself it shows – and when you’re approach is too rehearsed and polished, you can look a bit ‘staged’.

Another key consideration is how to naturally ‘close’ a conversation.  Give some consideration to how long you spend engaging with a new contact in a networking environment. Now, I’m not saying that you should have a stopwatch or anything (unless it’s speed business networking – and I’ll save my tips on that subject for another post) – but you should be aware of how the conversation is going. 

If you’ve engaged, talked a bit, found out a bit about the person, their interests, what they do, what they’re looking for from the event, perhaps talked further about common interests, experiences etc – and perhaps exchanged cards – then if conversation starts to wane, it’s time to naturally close the conversation.

You don’t want to be labelled as the person  ‘I couldn’t get away from ’ – as that’s not a positive memory.  So , watch how the conversation flows – when it feels that all natural conversations are exhausted and you’re moving on to the weather and scrabbling around for things to say – then time to say ‘Well, great meeting you – enjoy the event, keep in touch – let’s connect (if appropriate) – and move on, graciously.

So to summarise :

·        Reduce clichéd approaches

·        Practice ways to naturally open conversations

·        Practice ways to naturally close conversations

 

Happy networking...

Laura

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