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Have you ever been to a dreaded mixer, networking or "after hours" event, realized you were trapped by a guy who wouldn't stop talking and couldn't find the nearest exit?
Twenty minutes ago, you asked him what he does and he's still talking. And you still have no idea what he does.
We've all been there.
I've also seen the "drive by" networker - you know the one - the guy who goes from person to person in the ridiculous attempt to collect as many business cards as possible. Like they're baseball cards and he's going to trade them for better ones after school.
It can be frustrating.
But if you prepare ahead of time, networking doesn't have to be painful. It can actually build long-lasting business relationships, and dare I say - a little fun?
Get your elevator pitch down
Networking hinges on your elevator pitch - the 30- to 45-second story you tell about yourself. It should contain:
- Who you are
- Why you do what you do
- What problem you solve
Example: "My name is Dawn Dugle. I'm a strategic business storytelling consultant. When I was a journalist, I saw so many businesses who couldn't connect with their customers, because they couldn't tell their stories. So I've made it my life purpose to train people how to do this well."
I deliver varying degrees of this story, depending on the audience.
The key here is to practice, practice, practice until it becomes more natural. (If it helps, keep those three bullet points in a note on your phone, so you can refresh your memory right before you walk into a networking event.)
K.I.S.S. (Keep it short and sweet)
You should be able to tell your story in 30 to 45 seconds. Then ask the person about his/her story. People love to talk about themselves, and they will usually tell you everything you need to know - if you let them.
You want to spend five to ten minutes with your new friend, but no more than that. Thank them for their time and excuse yourself.
Two eyes, two ears, one mouth - no smart phone
Are you listening to understand or are you just waiting to talk?
The key to networking is really listening to what the other person has to say. Ask your question, then stop talking! Nothing is more infuriating than someone asking you a question, then continuing to talk. The second most infuriating thing is when you are trying to answer their question and they're not paying attention because they're thinking of what to say next or they're busy playing on their phones.
A wise man said: "God gave you two eyes, two ears and one mouth. You should look and listen twice as much as you talk."
And for the love of Pete, please put your phone away. Your email and your text messages can wait. What if this is the person who will help you take your business to the next level, you should probably pay attention!
What do we talk about?
I admit, I've never met a stranger. I find people fascinating and everyone has a great story!
But if that's not your superpower, that's okay. I've made a list of 33 questions you can ask someone to get the conversation started. And you just might learn something in the process.
Dawn Dugle is an award-winning writer, author and CEO of Dugle Media. Find out if they can help you with your business goals today.