Networking 101: What Should I Say When Networking?

Does this scenario look familiar?

You walk into a room full of networkers at an event. The place is packed full of people and the air is full of voices, conversing. Everybody looks like they know who to talk to and what to say. Overwhelmed by the noise and the fullness of the room, you start to feel like a seven-year-old in a room full of adults.

If this sounds familiar (and who hasn’t been there?), you probably felt like turning around and going home. I am not particularly comfortable in loud rooms and I know I’m only going to have enough voice for a couple of conversations, but that’s ok. Here is what you do:

  • Make a deal with yourself to meet two people. That’s it, just two. Then you can go home.
  • Look for someone else who doesn’t have anyone to talk to. This person will be grateful when you walk up and introduce yourself.
  • If no one is standing alone, look for people who are talking, but not directly facing each other. They may be sitting next to each other or standing next to each other and gazing outward. This body language suggests that they are open to another person joining the conversation. Remember, they are all there to meet new people.
  • Introduce yourself. Reach out a hand to shake and say, “Hi, I’m Bonnie Simon.” (with your name, of course). The other person will respond with his or her name.

Good! You’ve met a person. But now what?

Ivan Misner, Ph.D and Brian Hilliard suggest asking specific questions in their book, Networking Like a Pro.

I wasn’t at a networking group when I wrote this, so to demonstrate how to ask these questions, I spoke with Mr. Pickles the Cat.

***

So, Mr. Pickles. What do you do?

I am a cat. My Unique Selling Proposition is that I provide snuggling and mouse control for people who live on Hungry Chicken Homestead.

Well, now that’s interesting. What do you like best about what you do?

I like it all, but I think my favorite part is napping all day and then running around the house like a wild animal at night.

Oh, I can see how you’d like that! You mentioned you are in the Mouse Control industry. How did you get started doing that?

<laughs> It just sort of happened. One day I was dozing in a sunbeam and I heard a noise. Naturally, I got up to investigate and I discovered a mouse under the couch. It was so much fun that I decided to do this for a living.

Haha, I know just what you mean. That’s how I got into writing. So tell me, where else do you network? 

I come here to the easy chair often, but I also like to network at the backyard fence. I meet a lot of other cats there. I don’t make good friends, like I do in here, but I’ve gotten some referrals from them nonetheless.

Oh, yes. I like to network in here too. The other cats outside are afraid of me. When doing business with cats, I have to be careful what I say. It’s one of my biggest challenges. What would you say is your biggest business challenge?

Competition. Definitely competition. The other cats who live here make it necessary to compete intensely for snuggling business. I don’t mind since I’m extremely good at what I do, but I have to constantly hone my snuggling skills.

I’m sure you do! Mr. Pickles, how can someone like me help you in your business?

I greatly appreciate feedback on my “dominating by cuteness” skills. And if you meet any mice, please send them my way.

***

If you ask good questions and get your new contact talking about his business, you’ll make a good impression. And they’ll probably ask you the same questions, giving you an opportunity to talk about your business too!

When you’re ready to move on, say, “Well, Mr. Pickles, it was a pleasure to meet you!”, perhaps ask for a business card and look for the second person to talk to.

You’re well on your way to becoming a skilled networker and bringing referrals to your business!

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