From Small Talk To Networking Success

Let’s face it … “small talk” has a bad reputation. It probably dates back to the continual chiding our mothers did relative to talking with strangers.

While her warnings were intended to protect us as children from those who prey on our innocence, we are no longer kids. We are big boys and girls … We operate in the grown-up world where strangers become good friends, great clients and, even reliable vendors.

Even still, however, “small talk” gets a bad rap. Far too often people see it as idle chitchat that has no productive value in the professional world.

Understand this, our entire personal and professional worlds are formed and held firmly together by networking … And “small talk” has a big part in successful networking.

Was That Networking Event Worthwhile?

The burning question after most any networking event is “Was that worthwhile?”

In reality, the answer is “Absolutely!”. After all, every event offers value. Some offer more immediate value than others. They all have value, however.

Track your results however you deem appropriate. Before you completely pass judgment on an event, however, remember that the benefits of any networking activity may not present themselves for weeks, months, or even years.

Don’t Foul Up The Follow Up

Networking events are wonderful. The conversations can be exhilarating. And the whole experience productive. Follow Up or Follow Through regarding whatever you promised to. If you pledged to reconnect, do so. If you offered to introduce them, make it happen. If you indicated you would send them something, get it sent.

Know this, so few people follow through on what they say they are going to do. That is a sad, but true fact. Given that, if you are committed to doing so, you immediately elevate yourself ahead of a significant portion of the networking population.

The Golden Rule In Action

No doubt, when interacting with others at networking events you are hopeful of getting things … clients, important contacts, and useful information. Understand this: They are too. You can make an indelible impression on them by finding some way of helping them – even if only in a small way. So as they talk, run whatever they are saying through a filter that queries: “How can I add value to them?” This is the Golden Rule of Networking – Give first and get second.

There is nothing that says that you have to help them right there and then. If you can help them in that moment, great. If not, do not despair.

Just understand that you make the most of building that connection by trying to find some way you can add value to them later. It might be a referral. It might be a contact. It might be useful information for them.

Networking Conversation

 

At a networking event, once you have exchanged names, conversation will likely ensue. Engage In It.

In so doing, do not start the conversation directly focused on business or professional aspects. That can be off-putting and serve to create an uncomfortable situation. Rather, engage in some small talk. Inquire as to the origin of their name. Ask them about their impressions on the event itself. Get them talking on anything other than business. This will serve to make the connection comfortable.

After a few or even several minutes of small talk, segue over to more professional topics. Ask about their business. How long have they done it? What did they do before? How did they get started?

Once the professional discussion has run its course, segue back to small talk. You can reflect on something professional they said, and tie it back to something within the small talk.

As you engage in conversation, be sure to listen to what they have to say. Focus on them, and not your watch, or who is coming through the door, or anything going on around you.

You should express a genuine interest in what they have to say, especially if it is a topic that you set in motion with one of your questions. To do this, face up to them, make eye contact, and:

• Make sounds and comments to indicate understanding (or simply nod your head) … “Oh, interesting.”

• Ask questions to clarify things … “Now, when you say [blank], what do you mean?

• Echo back what they have said in summary fashion … “So you basically got into business because …”

As they talk look for things you have in common, whether they are shared backgrounds, similar experiences, or other ways to relate to them. You can use these to interject or ask questions, as a means of keeping the conversation going.

Location: A Key to Networking Events

At networking events, appropriately position yourself. In fishing, you go to where the fish are or will be. In networking, the same logic holds. Stand where you will most likely be amongst people. Near the entrance. At the buffet or bar. Close to other high traffic areas.

If you stand outside the main stream of human flow (or worse, sit off to the side), you virtually eliminate your opportunity for having anything come from the networking event – immediately or ever.

Assuming you have positioned yourself appropriately you will encounter people. Like a parade, from your position people will go meandering by.

Overcoming Aversion to Attending Networking Events

According to research, among people’s greatest fears are:

  • Death By Fire;
  • Public Speaking; &
  • Vacationing With In-Laws

Not far behind is finding oneself in a room of total strangers. Even if you don’t fear that situation, you might NOT be totally comfortable with it. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

One surefire method to overcome the anxiety of being at events is to Have The Right Frame of Mind. While this may sound obvious, there are plenty of people who trip themselves up at networking events before they actually show up.

Remember that networking works, although not always exactly as you had hoped. Before you embark on the networking event, you need to truly believe that the process works and that your mere presence has set that process in motion.

While your mere presence is important, you will totally undermine your efforts if you bring with you anything but a positive disposition. Now, not every day, month or year, for that matter, can be a good one, but there is something good about each. Reflect on the positive aspects of your personal and professional life. Do what you can to be of uplifting spirits. Remember, while support groups can be a networking opportunity, most networking events are not designed to be support groups. Leave your worries at the door, to the extent possible.

Finally, embark on any networking event with a sincere expectation of the outcome. It may not be all that you hoped for, since there is no guarantee that you will get a new client out of it. But know this – something will come from you being there. You might meet someone that can refer you or put you one step closer to a new client. You might reconnect with a former client or center of influence or gain a piece of information that holds untold value. There is a plethora of potential benefit that can come from any networking event. You will never get it all, but you will always likely get something.

Building a Networking Relationship: 7 of 7

As a business person, you need things today (clients, information, and contacts). Guess what? You are going to need them tomorrow, and the next day, and next year. Thus, creating and nurturing productive relationships is an ongoing endeavor. Your job is never done.

Know this: Some days your networking efforts are going to seem worthwhile. It is easy to keep after it. Other days your networking efforts are going to seem like a complete waste. You will want to swear it off. Don’t.

You need to have faith. Opportunity comes from the most unlikely places and it is all the result of productive relationships. Never quit trying to build Know, Like, and Trust.

To summarize, remember, to be successful at anything, knowledge is important. What is vital, however, is being proficient at networking. Networking, though, is about building solid relationship where people know you, like you, and trust you. Those things are achieved through certain actions and interactions with those in your network. These actions involve consistent generosity, reliability, and commitment to others, just to mention a few.

Building a Networking Relationship: 6 of 7

Whether you are 19, 90 or somewhere in between, you now know more people than you could possibly meet over the next year (maybe two or three). Think about it. You know people in your community. You know people from high school, college, and your plethora of career moves (or those moving careers around you). You know people through your kids, parents, or family. You know lots of people.

While meeting new people is always an important part of networking, there is a tremendous advantage to networking with familiar names and faces – they already Know, Like and Trust you. That is a tremendous head start to productive and effective networking.

Given that, an important part of building your business or career network, is to dig into your “now electronic” Rolodexes, card files or little black books and mind your existing contacts. Reconnect with these old friends and acquaintances. Get caught up on their lives. Think of ways you can help them. Share with them about your professional endeavors. Remember to ask for assistance.

Remember the “Know, Like, and Trust” is already there. All you need to do is capitalize on it.

Building a Networking Relationship: 5 of 7

 

Getting people to “Know, Like, and Trust” you is dependent upon human interaction. Remember, however, your network (or any network, for that matter) is built one relationship at a time.

There is an Indian proverb that says, “An eagle that chases two rabbits, catches none.” This is true of relationships as well. You will not be able to develop lasting Know, Like, and Trust if you are focused on multiple relationships at any one time. In fact, the more relationships you attempt to develop at once, the less effective you become.

The point to this topic is this: As you are out being involved, do not feel the need to race about meeting as many people as possible … having quick, shallow conversations … collecting business cards and then haphazardly following up with a plethora of people you can hardly remember.

Rather work to have involved conversations with just a few people (and then attend another gathering and do the same). Learn about people. Invest time in who they are. Be genuinely interested. Conduct yourself so that when you follow up, you can do so with substance.

By working to develop relationships one person at a time, you become more effective developing relationships, in short people will Know, Like, and Trust you.