This is the final blog in The Art of Networking series. The previous blog talked about the important exit and follow up stage. This one will discuss how you make the most of the organic networking opportunity.
The Organic Networking Opportunity
Networking doesn’t have to happen in formal, structured settings. Some of the most interesting connections can be made at random, when a series of events conspire to bring two random people together: stuck in an elevator? In a line for a taxi? On a long-haul flight? These are all possible networking opportunities.
What do you say?
Have your ‘elevator pitch’ ready – but understand that the real value of the elevator pitch is knowing when and how to use it. If the person already knows you they might ask you how things are going and you’ll flounder if you don’t have a ready-made answer. It took me a while to realize that the people who have a really good answer to this don’t come up with it spontaneously. They’ve often thought about and refined the one sentence description of what they are working on, or what they are interested in, so that it sounds good when and if somebody asks.
If you’ve had this person on your radar as a target connection for a while, use your research to strike up a meaningful conversation. Notice what they publish, or what initiatives they are leading on. Check out their social media and pay attention to their interests. Remember that the aim of the impromptu networking opportunity is to establish a human connection; that is the start of a relationship. And frankly, some senior people will be so relieved to have a normal human conversation rather than hear a sales pitch on the elevator ride.
Some safe topics for those moments:
* A comment about the event you’ve both just been to
* Sports teams they support or other interests you both share
* Articles they’ve recently published
* Awards that their team have won recently
* Your own passion / interest relative to your shared professional world
The tips and techniques I have shared in this series of articles have worked for me and my clients in the past. Professional networking events are contrived environments, so you have to develop a special set of behaviors to successfully navigate it. Make things easy for yourself and others to have a natural, engaging conversation with open body language, questions and responses. And keep notes and records rather than relying on your memory to recall previous conversations with the same person.
Remember people won’t remember exactly what you say but they will remember how you made them feel.
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