Networking like a human5 min read
We’ve all experienced the intimidation of walking up to a stranger and starting a conversation, felt the awkwardness that comes with nudging yourself into someone’s group space, only to go unnoticed. It’s frustrating when you’ve tried everything you can think of to make a connection and things just aren’t working – not counting that one time you wore a clown suit because people definitely noticed you that time.
Let’s face it, networking with humans is weird.
But how can you make it feel less awkward? How can you make networking a valuable tool, instead of a nuisance?
It comes down to improving your humaning skills. I’m by no means an expert on humaning as it’s something I fail at every day, however, I do try and improve my skills. But through my failures I have learned three tips and tricks to help me get through the nightmare, the storm and the hell that is networking – listening, following up and building a relationship.
Talk Less, listen more
We get so focused on what’s going on in our lives that we often forget that it’s not about us. Instead, we focus on what we’re going to say next when we’re going to talk about what we want to talk about, and where we can direct a conversation. We focus on the “I” things, instead of the person we’re talking to, who also wants to talk about themselves.
How can we switch this natural instinct to talk about ourselves? Well, lucky for us, there are plenty of people that write/research on this topic. It even has a name, active listening, but I like to call it being a good human.
The three main bullet points for being a good human:
- Listen to understand
- Care about what is being said
- Include others
If you follow these steps during your next conversation you will see a huge difference. You may be surprised at how easy it is to have a conversation with someone when you focus on building a relationship rather than focusing on yourself. Don’t worry, you will have an opportunity to share what you do, only this time it will come naturally.
#ProTip Ask questions. Scientifically people like people more who ask a lot of questions. So be inquisitive yo! How are you? – See? It works :D.
So you’ve gone to the event, met the peoples and have made new #Friends4Life
But how do you continue that relationship, and continue the conversation beyond the event?
It’s shocking how many people don’t follow up, I’m no saint in this arena, but I’m working on it. There’s something about it that makes us feel special. It’s shows that someone really cared about what you are saying, and for me brings a smile to my face. Especially when I was about to send an email to them and the other beats me to it.
If you’re having trouble finding something to talk about then try and remember key things about the individual you spoke with. Do they have kids? Are they planning on going on vacation? Are they a wizard? If they are a wizard, then ask them if they know Harry – that guy’s famous.
Here are some additional tips, or conversation starters for your follow-up email:
- Ask a question in your email in reference to what you talked about.
- Start a debate. Kittens and wood-chippers. I’m against them, you’re for them? Thoughts? (5:30 of that video will let you in on the joke.)
- Talk about magic, or comedy, or the latest movie you watched on Netflix they may enjoy. The secret is to talk about things other than just their business, build a relationship.
- Go into further detail about what you were talking about and share some links. For instance, are you both nerds about space? Share some cool stuff going on in space. NASA’s all about that.
- Try and pick out bullet points of what the person is talking about (works for me, maybe it will for you) and try to drive the conversation in a way that shows you are listening and that you hear what the other person is talking about #goodhumaning.
It should come as no surprise that we like to work, associate and talk with humans that we like. We do that in personal life, and we do the same thing in business.
Now that you have had a conversation, and are building that connection, now is a great time to take it to the next level and build upon your relationship.
Building the relationship
Coffee. Always coffee. Well, unless it’s coffee beer. Then coffee beer.
Building a relationship requires time and investment, it should come as no surprise. Think about your best friend. You and your best friend built a relationship over time and now do all kinds of crazy things together – like showing up to a networking events wearing clown costumes.
But if you had asked them to do that without first building the relationship then chances are they would have either looked at you funny or jumped in and were totally into it. Then you know you’re going to best friends.
Don’t force it. Let it come naturally. I’m now realizing how much building a business relationship is actually like building an actual relationship. It takes time. Some need to date more than others, but when you find the right person, or persons, you’ll know.
Put a ring on it
I hope this article helps you think about networking differently. It can be a nuisance, but if you come at it from a relationship perspective then you will always win. Take your time, and have fun engaging in a conversation.
The key is to connect and take the relationship past the networking event and build it into an actual relationship.