You’re at a networking meeting and you want to talk to someone who is in a tight knit little group.
What do you do?
Do you hover and hope one of them will spot you and let you in?
Do you interrupt the conversation?
Cupping* provides a neat solution.
Simply cup the elbow of anyone in the group. They will automatically turn towards you, giving the opportunity to smile winningly and say, “May I join you?”
(If you are a normal polite human being you will notice when someone is hovering and invite them to join in your conversation so this tactic should never be necessary.)
*Other forms of cupping are available.
How do you break into huddles at networking meetings?
This week I got several spammy emails asking me if I was taking on new clients and if so would I accept this invitation to join something called Referral Key.
Referral Key is a web site that “allows you to tap into your contacts’ networks and track referrals to increase reciprocity”
The sub text is that the owners of Referral Key have a never ending supply of punters to sell their membership services to after the first 3 free referrals are used up.
In other words you load all your contacts from Outlook onto the website and send them all the same spammy email and then everyone who accepts the invitation does the same. If you join, you track the referrals you get and score people on how many referrals they’ve sent you compared to how many you’ve sent them (!)
I’ve always had a problem with the idea of referrals and reciprocity or rewards.
Call me simple but if someone I know could do with the services of someone else I know I’ll introduce them. I don’t want or expect any rewards for doing that.
Most of my work comes from referrals but I don’t bribe, browbeat or guilt trip expect or offer to pay directly or indirectly for those referrals. I sometimes send a thank you gift but no-one knows about it except the people involved.
What I don’t do necessarily is reciprocate with a referral unless there is a very, very good match.
Am I being too simplistic? Do you have to think you’re gonna get something back before you send someone a referral? Isn’t it more powerful if there is no coercion involved? Shouldn’t you be able to rely on being bloody good at what you do in order to get referrals or is it all down to “I’ll scratch your back only if you scratch mine”?
If you go to networking meetings to sell, you won’t be interested in this. If you’d like to have fun meeting people, you will.
Fun tip 1. Expose yourself
Step out from behind your business persona and expose the real you! People do business with people they like but how can anyone like you if you just spout a sales pitch? If you want to be remembered as interesting, charming, funny, passionate you need to BE those things. Truly passionate people never have to ‘say’ they are passionate – they demonstrate it in the way they behave.
Fun tip 2. Never ask “What do you do?”
There are a million and one ways to open a conversation and the more you know about a person the easier it is. Before pitching up to an event find out who is going to be there and check them out on line. Then you can start with a ‘real’ question (like WHY they do what they do). If you can break the ice with an on-line conversation before meeting someone face to face (get a good on-line profile picture so that you are recognised) then you’re way ahead of the game.
If you meet a complete stranger, stay personal. Start by paying them a compliment, ask them who is the most interesting person in the room, what are they expecting from the speaker, what is the most interesting thing they’ve heard so far, who do they want to meet. Listen to the answers and have a proper conversation. Don’t jump in with a sales pitch.
Fun tip 3. If someone asks what you do, don’t tell them about your business
Tell them the MOST interesting thing you do that isn’t about your business (if you can’t think of anything, get a life!) If they insist on knowing about your business, ask them why that is so important. Ask them questions about themselves. If they go into a sales pitch, interrupt and ask different questions (its not rude – you didn’t ask to be sold to). Get them away from business and find out who they really are.
Fun tip 4. Be prepared to be dazzled
Everyone you meet is so much more than their business and they are also standing in their own acre of diamonds – their circle of contacts. If you do all the talking there is no chance that you will ever discover who they are. By showing a genuine interest in people and discovering common interests and values rather than trying to sell to them you could find yourself drawn into that circle and who knows where that might lead.
Fun tip 5. Make people feel comfortable
When you are completely comfortable with yourself you stop thinking about you and give 100% of your attention to others. This makes people feel special and they relax. If its all about you it’ll never work. People mimick our posture and facial expressions so if you are relaxed and having fun, they will be too and they’ll always be happy to be around you.
See related post “Seductive networking”
What do you think? Will you abandon your elevator pitch and expose the real you?
“Be seductive” the man said. “Use your voice, your eyes, your body to seduce the person you’re talking to. Make them WANT to get to know you better.”
“Most importantly”, he added, “Remember, it’s not about YOU! To be interesting you need to be more interested in the person you’re talking to than in yourself.”
“THE man” was @SteveTrister and if you haven’t seen him perform, you’re missing out big time.
Steve was entertaining a bunch of business owners and at the same time giving them invaluable tips on how to get the best out of the networking experience. His performance was brilliant; full of really funny observations about all the ways to alienate people and how to be really engaging and not just spout a tired old elevator pitch.
He put particular emphasis on being aware of the emotions we create in others and how to make real connections. Steve’s performance was great and the interactive session where he got people to practice was lively and seemed to get good results.
A few minutes later we went back to networking and the carapace of the seasoned networker slammed firmly back into place. I know habits take more than a few minutes to change but hell’s teeth, even the most unaware person in the room couldn’t have missed the main message:
IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU!
Yet here we were with myopic men peering at chests to read name badges to decide whether (chest notwithstanding) someone was worth talking to, instead of making eye contact and simply saying, “I’m Bill, who are you?”
No attempt at small talk, not even the slightest interest in the person (again, chest notwithstanding), only in the business they run.
If “What do you do?” was banned from the vocabulary, most serial networkers would be struck dumb.
Well pardon me folks, but I am more than my business. If I start a conversation with “I like your tie / necklace / hair colour / codpiece” or “What’s the wine / canapés / cocaine like?” I don’t expect the response to be “What do you do?” followed by (and usually without pausing for breath), a lengthy description about your business.
I’m looking for banter, rapport, a bit of fun, an exchange of ideas.
If I just wanted to know what business people are in I can get that from the attendance list. The reason for going to networking meetings must surely to meet the PEOPLE not the businesses, to discover if they’re funny, quirky, boring or obnoxious.
I WANT to be seduced but it seems like there’s fat chance of that ever happening.
Be honest now, how many times have you come away from a networking meeting having been totally fascinated and charmed by someone, irrespective of whether their business is of any interest to you?
Which is a shame because I’m sure in ‘real life’ most networkers are charming and fascinating and they know equally charming and fascinating people but we’re all missing out on those extended connections because we never get further than “What do you do?”. No one has a real conversation because they’re too busy looking over each other shoulders to see who they’re missing.
Whoever invented the term “Working the room” should be sent to networking purgatory. You won’t find Steve Trister there – he’ll be too busy having fun and making people laugh!
If you want to learn how to give a high impact, influential and memorable message every time you speak, take a look here: http://www.performancedynamite.co.uk/
Interestingly, Twitter seems to amplify the habits that people display in other networking arenas. Before I follow someone on Twitter I check out their tweet stream to see if they sound interesting, if they interact with others and have a bit of fun. If they just broadcast endless one-way messages, and especially use repetitive auto tweets I generally don’t follow them. Auto tweeting is like sending a recording to a party and expecting to pull! If networkers displayed their Twitter name on their contact details it would make networking much easier – there’s no where for the boring, self important types to hide!
What do you think? Am I expecting too much? Are we people first and businesses second? What would happen if, instead of asking “What do you do?”, we asked each other “Who are you and what are you interested in?” Are YOU a seductive networker? Tell me below ……
We see a lot about the importance of creating a good first impression but what’s your second impression like?
You get into the right clothes, do a bit of grooming, practice the smile and the firm handshake, learn a bit about body language and voice tone and wham, bam, thank you m’am you’ve aced the first impression. Everyone thinks you’re a great guy or gal and relaxes.
Then what? Then the real you gets an outing. When you stop trying to impress is there a different you that comes out?
I’ve recently had to re-asses my opinion of someone who always gives a great First Impression performance and remembered this that I heard from George Raynault, a multi-millionaire I worked with for several years who was a very wise man:
Someone at a reception smiled a hello and shook my hand warmly.
Later I saw him almost sneering at one of the waiters.
And, later still, talking behind someone’s back.
You only have one chance to make a first impression, true, but you have an
awful lot of time to make plenty of second impressions.
If you are meeting someone for the first time and may not get a chance to see
them again, a first impression really counts. For a very short time.
However, if you are going to be interacting with a person over a longer period of
time then second impressions are even more important.
Is someone who is rude to waiters and cab drivers or who cheats a barmaid out
of small change really someone you want to do business with?
If someone is always blaming other people and doesn’t treat others as they’d like to be treated why would you recommend them to others?
If people know they can rely on you to behave well and honorably even if no-one is watching, if you listen to them, make them feel good, cheer them up, be kind or give them good advice they will always seek you out and introduce you to others.
Second impressions are even more important than the first ones. Appearances only go so far. Its deeds that show your true worth.