Networking is the backbone to nearly everything in life. It is how we meet new people in all areas of our personal and professional lives. Yesterday we discussed the first step in face-to-face networking – approaching someone. You have exchanged introductions and have engaged in small talk. Now what?
Many conversations die after the small talk. It is the job of the initiator to keep it going. This can be done very easily and fluidly by asking casual questions. These can include asking about their job, education, workplace, or where they live or grew up. What are their hobbies, favorite books, or music preferences? All of these topics can help keep the conversation flowing and create opportunities to find what you have in common with this person. Just remember to only ask those questions that you are willing to answer yourself.
Conversations seem to flow in a basic evolution. This evolution can be seen in nearly every conversation and not just those between two people who have met. Small talk leads into humorous banter, which eventually leads to a deeper discussion of thoughts and ideas. It is often here where you begin to learn more about the person. This knowledge can help uncover if they are a passive candidate who might be a great fit for your organizations.
There are some very basic rules to make your networking conversations successful.
- Talk about yourself sparingly. Add your thoughts, but do not hijack the conversation and make it about yourself.
- Employ the “Tell Me More” method of engagement. Aske the person to expand on their thoughts.
- Speaking slowly shows confidence and reduces the need for space-fillers.
- Be judgment-free and show empathy.
- Compliment the person’s success, style, or work ethic, but NEVER their beauty.
- Avoid the topics that provoke one’s emotions, especially politics and religion.
- Mirror their body language and avoid negative body language.
- Abide the golden rule – give your conversational partner your full attention. Always practice active listening.
A key concept most are not aware of is that the more questions you ask, and the more others talk about themselves, the more they think you are interesting. You read that right. The more engaged your conversational partner is, the more interesting you become.
Keeping the conversation going beyond the introductions and small talk is the next step in mastering the art of networking. Follow these rules and you will be able to talk to anyone in any setting.