Networking

Getting out of a Conversation

14 Dec
by Bridget DiCello

This is certainly the time of year for parties, events and gatherings!  And while it’s good fun to visit with friends and family, in the business setting, the professional who attends a good deal of events probably does so with a business agenda in mind.  While still enjoyable, the event also turns into an opportunity to build current relationships, initiate new connections and discuss business opportunities.

When you wish to accomplish those objectives, getting “stuck” in a non-strategic conversation can be a problem.  Just like making sure you don’t miss anyone on your Christmas card list, it’s important to make sure you see all those people important to your success this time of year.

Why do we get “stuck”?

§ There are a lot of people who are not good at getting into conversations, so they don’t want to leave the security of the one they are in.
If this is you…get out there, make eye contact, shake a hand, go get food or drink – but get comfortable getting into conversations.

§ Maybe the person with whom you are speaking does not think you have learned enough about them and their company yet!
If this is you, this is a major networking mistake.  Ask more questions about the other person to build a relationship.  Talk less and you will be considered much more interesting.

§ The person who you are speaking with is not there to make multiple connections, just to socialize.
If this is you, more power to you – enjoy yourself, but also open the door for the other person to leave if they are looking for more concrete results from their attendance at events.

§ You don’t want to hurt their feelings by cutting off what they are saying.
If this is you, realize that many people will speak to fill the silence, and may be relieved if you end the conversation.

 

How can you politely get out of a conversation?

§ Start with a thank you such as:
It was good talking to you…
I’ve enjoyed our conversation…
I was surprised to learn (something you learned about them…)
I hope your (vacation, business venture, event they mentioned) goes well…

§ And finish the sentence with something that says you are thinking about them.
I will let you go mingle and meet some more of the attendees.
I’d like you to meet… (Identify someone you want to introduce them to and take them there.)

§ Or finish the sentence with something you need to do.
I’m going to go try that delicious looking food.
I’m going to go get myself something to drink.
If you’ll excuse me, I see someone I need to catch up with.

There is no requirement that you stay in a conversation for as long as it can possibly last.  Especially in a business setting, most people have objectives in their head for what they’d like to accomplish.

Have you ever felt “stuck” in a conversation?

Return on your Networking Investment

12 Aug
by Bridget DiCello

If you’re faced with an extremely busy schedule and increased demands in a challenging economy – you cannot spend a lot of time networking unless you get a good return on investment. Yet you find it necessary to get out and meet new people, connect and enhance relationships with current contacts and referral sources, and be out and be seen. You may not enjoy the typical “networking event,” because it doesn’t produce enough results to make the expense, time and discomfort of being around a bunch of people you don’t know, worth it.

From my experience, key activities that make it worth it your time and effort to attend an event:
• Decide what you need to achieve to make it worth attending events. Do you plan to make new contacts? If you do, do you know who specifically you’d like to meet or can you describe your target prospect? Do you wish to build relationships with current contacts or prospects by going where they go? Do you wish to achieve general visibility in larger crowds of professionals?
• Plan your month. Act purposefully. As much as possible, evaluate the events that are coming up in the next month and decide the best use of your time. Seeing some of the same people at events gives you an opportunity to deepen the relationships, but seeing them three times in the same month devalues that benefit. Plan to attend a variety of events to achieve your most important goals and stick within your budget.
• Invite people to attend with you. If they can’t go, the invitation itself is a meaningful contact and builds that relationship. If they can go, they will appreciate the opportunity, especially if it is an event of which they were not aware. It’s an opportunity to spend some time with the person you invite and introduce them to others.
• Show up early and act as a host. Stand near the door and welcome people. You can help them to feel comfortable, and have an easy conversation opener as they walk in the door.
• Move from conversation to conversation. Typically, making multiple contacts at an event will make it more worth your time. Spend 15 minutes talking to one very solid contact if that makes sense at the time, but reserve deeper conversations for a follow up meeting where they are often a better fit.
• Connect two people you know to one another. And vice versa, ask someone you know to introduce you to a contact they know and you would like to meet.
• Follow up with important contacts. I have long since stopped following up with everyone I meet. I know that some conventional networking wisdom will tell you to connect with a lot of people, not knowing who could help you/who you could help some day. Personally, I look at the return on investment of my time, am clear with where my beneficial connections will most likely lie, and spend my time there.

How about you? How do you ensure a profitable return on investment of your networking, time, energy and money?