The Importance of Networking & Top Tips to be more effective. Part 3 of 3 – ‘Conversation Kick-off’s’By John Stokoe
The reason I wrote these articles is help you improve your networking skills and capabilities so that you can enhance your career or business. It stands to reason then that you should be engaging others in valued conversations and this has to start somewhere. Unfortunately, it’s the first step that makes people nervous and quite rightly so, as first impressions are so important.
The last point in last week’s article was ‘Don’t be afraid to ask questions’ and this week we will give you some pointers to kick off a conversation and keep it engaging and flowing.
The conversation starts to flow
Once the conversation starts flowing, you’ll be surprised at how simple this really is, so here are a few conversation starters which will give you that all important starting point to building your business network.
1. ‘Hello’ is a good place to start
If you unsure, go with what you know, as in who you are and follow up question about them. Don’t complicate it: “Hi, I’m [name], what do you do or what’s business are you involved with?”
2. Help other people on their own
If you look around you will likely see others that may also be feeling insecure, so help them out of that situation and they will appreciate it. It’s a perfect opportunity to say hello so use the lines in point 1 and away you go.
3. What do they need?
Once you have exchanged names, a good conversation leader is to ask them why they are at the event and what they are looking for. This takes the pressure off you and your interest in their situation will be appreciated, instead of rambling on with no benefit to the other person. “What do you need help with?” or “How can I help you?”
4. Talk about latest news headlines
After the initial intro, you could bring a current topic into conversation, but ensure its relevant to the meeting and potentially their business. You could ask “So how will the news about XYZ affect your business?” Caveat is, Politics are usually best left undiscussed.
5. Ask for their input
People always appreciate being asked for their point of view or their expert advice. It makes them feel appreciated and important and frankly gives you tips that could fast track your business improvement. Remember you can always ask for referrals or introductions to people who have specific skills you are after and then lead with that. That’s why you there in the first place !
6. Everyone loves a compliment
Compliments go a long way, so if you see something you like about another person, whether it’s their outfit, shoes, tie or handbag, mention it. An example of “Wow those are amazing boots!” will usually be answered with a “Thank you”. At this point introduce yourself and away you go ….
7. A bit of humour
Admittedly this isn’t for everyone and is a learned art, but it’s not that difficult. Something like,” I’m just here for the food, how about you?” or “Can you believe they let me in here dressed like this?” Just remember to keep it clean and tasteful as this is a business environment.
8. Talk about the event
If you uncertain on how to start or unaware of the other persons skillsets, you can discuss the event itself. Their reply will give you some direction to continue the conversation. Start with “So much great information here today, what’s been beneficial to you?”
9. Contribute to a conversation
They say there’s safety in numbers and as it’s less nerve-wracking to join a group of people to listen to the direction of their conversation. Once you comfortable with the conversation you can add in constructive points to their conversation. You can also elaborate on the speaker’s message or throw in a comment about something relevant that you read earlier that day.
Build your network and your personal brand
Business networking is the single most effective way to build your personal brand and grow your business. Now you have the key to breaking the ice when it comes to conversations – get out there and start building your connections!
About the author
John Stokoe was born and bred in South Africa but his urge to expand and grow led him to the UK. Banking technology was hot during millennium and John worked himself into blue-chip Investment Banks where he steadily progressed into the Head Of Service Management and Business Continuity for major Japanese Banks. Detailed profile: Authors Profile