networking conversation for small businesses

3 Extremely Simple Steps to a Better Networking Conversation

I’ve written about concision before. This topic came up again recently at a talk that I was giving in NYC.

One of the attendees found it difficult to keep her networking conversations concise.

This happens to a lot of us. When talking to someone new, through a combination of wanting to be polite and just not being focused enough in our communication, we end up getting off on tangents and distractions.

Not only do you waste your own time, you waste the other person’s time as well. And you miss out on opportunities to meet and network with other people at the event.

Use these 3 steps to make your conversations more focused, while still being respectful and professional.

1. Create a Specific Goal for the Conversation

With no goal in mind, don’t be surprised you end up in conversational no-man’s-land.

You need some kind of objective or direction for this conversation to mean anything.

Some examples of conversation goals include:

  • I’m going to figure out if this person has a need for my fitness service
  • I’m going to learn what this person’s biggest challenge with web development is
  • I’m going to identify their current marketing strategy
  • I’m going to simply introduce my consulting company to them
  • I’m going to ask if they would like information on my newest app project

There are many others depending on your specific product or service, and the type of event and who is attending.

When you have a goal you’re trying to reach, it gives you something specific to work on.

2. Build a Conversation Template

A conversation template should be a simple and practical system that is easy for you to remember.

An example of a template would be:

  1. Introductions/ chitchat
  2. Learn about their business
  3. Share your current project
  4. Ask if they would like more information
  5. Collect contact info and say goodbye

In this template, you start by saying hello, exchanging pleasantries and chatting about something social to warm up the interaction.

Then you ask a question or two to learn about their business and see if they are a good fit for your project. If they are, you then share information about it (your actual “pitch”), and ask if they want to hear more.

If they are interested, you suggest a phone call or meeting and ask for their business card, phone number or Linked in, shake hands, say nice to meet you and move on to the next person.

Your preferred template may be something else entirely, depending on your objectives. But having a template will help you enormously in the moment to start and maintain a productive conversation.

You won’t have to worry about “what to say” because you can just refer back to your mental template and go to the next step.

3. Practice Just Ending the Conversation

If you force yourself to say “nice meeting you” and walk away a few times, your communication will get much tighter as a result.

This is because your brain will know “the ending” is coming up soon. So you will automatically touch on each stage in the conversation template before that definite endpoint.

If you practice a few times just ending it with a smile and a positive attitude, it will quickly become natural. You will feel good, the other person will feel good, and that is the ideal way to wrap it up and move on.

It may be awkward the first few times, but that’s ok. It’s better to have an awkward ending to a conversation than a conversation that drags on for 20 minutes while you could be meeting new people.

And even an awkward phone number exchange is better than none at all.

Above all, remember that most people are nervous or awkward at networking events. So you’re not alone. Just get out there and start practicing and building up your skills.

Related Posts