Another agonizing networking event! You walk around the room, introduce yourself to the next stranger, ask them what they do, and pray they'll offer anything remotely relevant to you.
Great! Another realtor!
Wow! Another financial manager!
Nice to meet you but I don't need a probate attorney.
Give me your card. If I ever decide to remodel…
You spend more time extricating yourself from fruitless discussions than you do engaging in them!
Interviewing a room full of random professionals one by one is the world's least efficient way to prospect for new business!
If you find networking frustrating, awkward, and ineffective, you're not alone.
And yet, we all need new clients, and referrals are the best way to get them. Networking—done the right way—is essential.
Why not change the story about what networking is and how it works?
To do that, we need to understand why so many people hate it. A few of the problems:
- Everyone comes to sell and nobody comes to buy.
- Serial one-to-one meetings are a massively inefficient way to connect with opportunities.
- And if you're an introvert, an evening full of contrived conversations is your worst nightmare.
So how do we fix it?
Every conversation requires common ground—a shared point of interest. It's up to the meeting organizer to help attendees reveal that common ground.
Round Robin Introductions
Make the 15-second elevator pitch part of your meeting culture. Instead of wasting half your event time on rambling expositions that suck the energy out of your event before it starts, challenge your attendees to communicate their value before they're stopped by the clock.
Don't we all need to learn to do this anyway?
Round-robin introductions can be a very effective icebreaker but only if they're fast and fun.
Help Your Attendees Kick Ask!
Provide your attendees with “Ask me about ______” labels that invite conversation. This simple tactic puts value first and provides grounds for connection.
ASK ME ABOUT: how to finish your book.
ASK ME ABOUT: keeping your employees from leaving
ASK ME ABOUT: demystifying your finances
ASK ME ABOUT: planning for retirement
Moreover, stories are always about people. This format encourages us to frame our offerings in terms of the value—the outcomes—we offer instead of talking about job titles and the functions we perform.
Speak to the Room
You might be surprised to know how many professional speakers (including me) are introverts. Introverts know that if we speak to the room, we get to network with everyone at once. After the presentation, your best prospects will line up to speak with you. Not everyone at an event will get to be the speaker but some professionals build their businesses on that model.
Encourage a Service Mindset
There's strength in numbers. Ask each of your attendees to think of five professionals they'd like to generate referrals for. If you have 100 networkers in the room, they're now serving 500 people! Instead of working the room praying that the next one-to-one encounter will create business opportunities for you, change the game. Ask everyone you meet, “What problems are you trying to solve? Who would you like to meet?” Nobody will feel sold-to, you don't have to start the conversation by talking about yourself, and the odds are at least as good as they always were that you and the person you're speaking with will have some reason to connect.
Most networking is notworking! It's disorganized, unstructured, ineffective, and inefficient.
If you're at a networking event and have no control over the rules of engagement, you can still show up with a snappy elevator pitch and a service mindset.
If you're the event organizer and you want to grow your community, take the twerking out of networking! Give people a better reason to engage and connect than commercial self-interest and they'll want to stay connected to you!