Networking Secrets: How to Really Connect

Written by: Michelle Nelson

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The days of standing around passing out a handful of cards and using your best elevator pitch are not as effective as they once were. If you want to make connections and convert leads at these events try focusing on a few of the following steps:

Networking Secrets: How to Really Connect

Although we are deep into the digital revolution and focusing on social media and web referrals seems to be the norm, there is still a place for real face-to-face connection. Chances are, even if your focus is on web traffic, you still attend events like committee luncheons, happy hours and ballgames with hopes of leaving with a few quality leads or referrals.

The days of standing around passing out a handful of cards and using your best elevator pitch are not as effective as they once were. If you want to make connections and convert leads at these events try focusing on a few of the following steps:

1.Hello My Name Is

Make sure to wear a smile and your name badge. It makes you more approachable. Most targeted networking events provide name badges for attendees, however if you are in the practice of always wearing one, you will never be too far from striking up a conversation. Having a name badge visible throughout a conversation is a great way to make people feel comfortable. They will never have to ask for your name twice and likely will not leave the conversation not knowing who you are. If the name badge makes you feel too formal, try a branded tee-shirt or hat.

2.Pointed Questions

You do not have to meet every person in the room. Your goal is to make a few quality contacts and spark a real connection. You do this by discovering what is most important to him or her.

Next, pay attention to who is in the center of the larger groups of people. These individuals tend to be the influencers in the room. When they break away from the group, introduce yourself and ask for their card. Smile, and ask them a question about their business such as, “How do you set yourself apart from your competitors?” This allows the person to speak feeling about something that is important to them. It keeps the focus on what they need and sets you apart from others who are giving that standard elevator speech.

3.Give and Receive: Compliments

A great way to start any conversation is to give someone a compliment coupled with a targeted question. For example, “That was an amazing talk you just gave. How did you become interested in the topic?” This again, allows the person to open up and talk about himself or herself without feeling awkward or pushy.

When someone give you a compliment, the best response is a simple “Thank You.” Too many people simply brush off compliments from others. If they have asked you a question, answer with confidence instead of shying away. They are giving you the opportunity to connect now.

4.Work the Perimeter

Engage people standing near the walls. People observing the event from the perimeter may be the organizers or even the leaders of the event. They may also be more comfortable in one-on-one conversations as they have choosing not to be a part of a larger group giving you a chance to make a great connection.

5.Deflect Distraction

It is impossible to make a strong connection with someone if you are distracted. Avoid scanning the room or checking your phone. Make sure you are giving the person you are talking with 100 percent of your attention.

6.Three is a Crowd

A group of three or more people are usually going to be in “networking mode”. Look for the group body language; are their feet spread apart, are their shoulders opened up? These are all small signs that the group is open to growing their conversation.

If you are a part of a group and see someone standing near, invite them to be a part of your conversation. This is save them the feeling that they are interrupting and they will appreciate your willingness to engage them in your conversation.

7.Curiosity Connects

Keeping the focus on others by being curious about their needs and wants is far better way to connect then telling people, “I’m never too busy for your referrals”. Finding out how you can give them a referral is a great way to get one in return.

For more ideas about making lasting face-to-face connections check out “Endless Referrals: Network Your Everyday Contacts into Sales” by Bob Burg.