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Networking PerspectiveHopefully you’ve learned by now that the QUANTITY of business cards you give or receive at a networking event is not important – it’s the QUALITY of those cards that really matter. Personally, I’d rather walk away with just a few business cards of people that I actually connected with than handfuls of cards of people that I happened to bump in to. So, rather than focusing on how many business cards you can grab or handout, or how many elevator pitches you can give, you’ll be far more successful if you look at networking as a way to connect rather than a way to extract value.

How can you do this? Remember two important laws of the universe:

  1. People LOVE to talk and be heard
  2. People don’t like to listen because, well, they’d rather be talking and being heard!

You’ll see these rules again in any of my future blogs regarding networking because they are foundational to the human experience – and rarely seen as obviously as at a networking event!

So how do you change your pattern if you’ve really been used to doing all the talking. (HINT: It’s kind of like trying to stop smoking – it takes time and might even involve some pain, but the rewards are great!) Here are some quick tips:

  1. AVOID STARTING A CONVERSATION WITH “WHAT DO YOU DO?” (I admit that’s a tough one for me as that’s been my M.O. since my first networking event many years ago).
  2. INSTEAD, ASK A MORE PERSONAL/NON-BUSINESS QUESTION: Something like “How are you enjoying this event?” or “Have you been coming to these events very often?” or “Are you a Chamber member?” You get the idea: Small talk that will naturally lead to what each of you do. The difference is that, by that time, you’ll have gotten to know each other so it will be a more organic exchange of information, and likely more meaningful.
  3. ALWAYS ASK “WHY”: WHY is a great way to start a conversation because it’s open-ended and will encourage the other person to speak so you can practice listening! What a great way to exchange ideas. Think about the last time that someone seemed interested enough to ask you a question without you volunteering the information before it was asked?

Of course, be sure to follow-up with those you do make a genuine connection with – even if they may never be a customer or client.  You never know what you could learn and, who knows, they could become your biggest referral source!