You Need to Network But You Hate Making Small Talk... Five Questions to Get You Started.Sep 28, 2021
You have an obligation to secure sustainable resource such that the organization can achieve its mission.
To that end, you need to network, meet people and develop influence. More on influence in another blog! Let’s start with networking.
Networking is not about making requests. It is about finding common ground and ways that you might support and help. And it starts with “small talk” and conversation.
The goal of conversation at functions is to establish enough common ground to determine a reason to connect again.
Alison Graham, author of From Business Cards to Business Relationships: Personal Branding and Profitable Networking Made Easy, offers some excellent advice on networking and making conversation. Her tips are simple, straightforward, and easy to use.
As an extravert, I don’t always find it easy to initiate conversation, especially with strangers; actually, make that, I never find it easy. I do try to arrive with a couple of conversation starters that will help. Her ideas are much better, however.
Questions to get the conversations flowing:
What’s your connection to this event? This question can uncover mutual contacts and usually leads to a more robust answer than if you asked the typical “Have you been to this event before?”
What’s keeping you busy when you’re not at events like this or at work? This question gives the encouragement necessary for the person to share passions and outside interests.
Are you getting away this summer? This question can lead to conversations about family, reveal special interests and, if you like talking about travel, it’s a sure-fire way to keep a conversation interesting.
Are you working on any new initiatives? Actually, I changed it from, “any charity initiatives”? This question makes it easy to launch into a deeper connection. If they’re not involved with any projects, they often share reasons, which is usually revealing, and if they are doing something of value they will be more than happy to share.
How did you come to be in your line of work? For some, the path to where they are today can be quite an interesting ordeal. Having a chance to revisit their story to success can leave helpful clues along the way as to who they are and what makes them tick.
Keeping a conversation rolling is simple when you learn to listen and ask appropriate probing questions that naturally grow from the dialogue. You only need to prepare a couple of questions in advance. If there is a genuine connection, then you can engage in conversation.
According to Graham, when it comes to small talk, don't think you must say something strikingly intelligent each time you speak.
Your words may be forgotten, but how you make people feel will be remembered.
The real key to great conversations is to relax. Let the conversation flow naturally. That's easiest to do when you're fully engaged and genuinely interested in the conversation topic and the person with whom you are talking.
Do you have questions you typically use to break the ice and form lasting connections? Tell us about them!
What are your main “pain points” dealing with networking? What advice would be most helpful to you? And we always assume that you are asking for a friend!
Get in touch. We’ll address your questions and concerns in an upcoming blog post.
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P.S. May I ask a tiny favour?
Would you mind sharing this blog with one person? I would love it. You can post the links in your Facebook Groups, LinkedIn or even send an email.