Recently, I did a Personal Branding gig at Manchester Business School and I was also asked to facilitate a speed networking session. Now I have never been to a speed networking event but I imagined it to be similar to speed dating and I was absolutely right. People get four minutes to introduce themselves to a stranger, then the bell goes off and they have to speak to the next stranger.
I am probably not the biggest fan of speed networking (or speed anthing really) as I believe networking is best when you take your time to really get to know people. I suppose it can work well at a big event like this, we had some 300 people wandering around a room and striking up conversations. Most of the networkers were graduates but there were plenty of ‘corporate’ people there as well which made for an interesting mix.
Anyway, on the train up to Manchester I came up with a few wise words on networking and I thought I’d share them right here in the shape of seven tips:
1. Kiss all the frogs
Jason Cobine taught me this term, it basically means that you never know which frog is a prince/princess and you never know which person at a networking event could lead to business. I have had business opportunities from lots of people where I least expected it. As long as you treat everyone the same and take your time to get to know people you are kissing the frogs and hopefully some of them turn into royalty.
2. Find out how you can help
As Kennedy said, ask not what you country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country. Instead of chasing business from everyone, see how you can help them with their business and you know it will come back to you. This is giver’s gain or networking karma and it really does work.
3. Find common ground
Networking with new people is much easier once you have found some common ground. This may be that you went to the same high school, support the same football club or you both listen to the same type of music. Common ground is a great ice-breaker and it puts both parties at ease.
4. Tell people what you do, not your title
Can’t stress this one enough. Nobody cares about your fancy shmancy title, they want to know what you can do for them and their network. So instead of saying you are the founder of X, a consultant at Y or a partner at Z, tell them how you add value to others.
5. Find out passions
Scott Gainsburg talks about how not to ask people what they do, where they live, how they find the event or any of the usual questions that everyone else asks. Instead, try to find out what the other person is passionate about and let them elaborate on that. This way you will be remembered as the person they had that great conversation with. Let’s face it, people like to talk and they love to talk about their passions – let them do it and they will remember you for it.
6. Take quick notes
Some of the best networkers I know will always put down a few notes about new people they meet. Some will write this on your business card, others in their notebook or even add it on LinkedIn. The point is that you will meet plenty of people at events and to remember them properly you may want to take notes.
7. Follow up
You have to strike while the iron’s hot. Whether you want to send a social media invite, have a phone call or a meeting you have to get in touch in the next seven days.
Those were my tips that day, I think they helped people connect better and hopefully they got some business as a result. Here is the presentation I delivered later in the day: