A typical networking interaction may go like this: “What do you do?” or “Tell me about your business.” What is your response? Are you prepared to answer in a way that will engage the asker, perhaps even to the point of persuading them to meet with you and ultimately purchase your product or service? That’s why you are there, right? To network?
Unfortunately at most networking events I attend, the answer to that question I most often hear is, “I’m a <role> and I work for <company>”. If the person is a little more on top of it I hear “I’m <name> and I’m a <role> with <company>, we do <brief description of what company does/offers>”.
I don’t consider myself as an expert in networking. However when I look at the numerous “courses” and workshops that are currently available and are designed to help people with networking, it seems to me that I have learned just as much from simply being an active, engaged net-worker. Over the past several years I have gained as much experience and knowledge as most of these so called experts.
Here some of the things I have learned:
- Have your business card ready. You would be surprised at how many people I meet at networking events who don’t have a card with them.
- Attend with intent. Know why you are there! If your intention is to meet with the most people you possibly can, perhaps your real intent is to raise your profile, so have something to use to achieve that. If your intention is to set future meetings to provide a more in-depth presentation on your service or product, be ready for that.
- Be prepared, be proactive
- Approach others; don’t wait for them to approach you.
- Be ready with a solid opening question – practice it.
- Instead of asking, “What do you do?” ask “What brings you to this event tonight?” Then follow up with a question that would tie what this person does to their reason for attending.
- Follow up with other open-ended questions that will encourage the person to engage with you.
- Be ready to answer questions. When someone asks what you do, be ready with a succinct reply. Practice it!
- Use a story to illustrate what your business or role: you could relate an experience that describes how you helped someone with your product or service.
- Adjust as you go. Be flexible and ready to tailor your response to each individual and situation.
- Have a “call to action” ready. While there, set up an appointment to connect later if you can. This means having your calendar at your disposal.
When someone asks you at a networking event, “Who are you, what do you do?” will you be ready?