Hey, hey, everyone, I’m talking to you about business networking strategies today, specifically about small talk.
Now, if you’re anything like me, you probably absolutely hate small talk. And that’s okay because small talk is usually bite-sized conversation that we try to generate in order to fill space when things get awkward. And it’s very apparent that’s what we’re doing ’cause we don’t know this person, so we’re just going to word-vomit to pass the time. That is not a good way to use your time, especially not if your goal is to network, build connections, build your business. So I wanted to talk a little bit about how do you network?
How do you enter a room of folks you don’t know without resorting to small talk?
Now, there are three key elements that I think can really help you in this area. The first one is very, very simple. I’m gonna break down each of these for you, give you some easy networking strategies that you can take away, and the next time you go to a networking event, hopefully, you can avoid the dreaded small talk.
#1. Focus on the other person
The first one of these networking strategies is to simply focus on the other person. The reason I say this is because oftentimes, especially if you’re introverted, when it comes time to introducing yourself, or mingling at a networking event, there tends to be a lot of pressure to have to talk about yourself. But you can eliminate all of that pressure by simply focusing on the other person.
Which means asking them questions and getting them to talk about themselves. Aside from introverts, most people love talking about themselves, and love talking about the things that they’re passionate about. Even introverts, when they find something that they’re truly interested in, open wide up.
Your goal when you meet someone new is to immediately start asking them questions about themselves, and about their business. Dig in about their passionate work. And that way, that removes any pressure that there could be for you to start pouring out details about yourself.
Now, the way this usually looks is you starting by asking some things about them and their business.
It could start simply by:
“Hey, how’d you find out about this event?”
“What kind of work do you do?”
“What kind of projects did you have coming up?”
“Where did you commute from?”
“Are you just coming from your office?”
Things that are seemingly mundane might get people to start talking a little bit more about themselves. If it’s a networking event, most often, people are there to talk about their business, so try to find something interesting that really opens them up. You’ll know it’s interesting for them because their eyes will light up. They’ll start leaning in towards you, and they might even start accelerating how quickly they’re speaking.
#2. Find something interesting to talk about
The second thing that you can do to make sure that small talk doesn’t end up being your go-to in these situations is to find something interesting about the other person. This means, pay attention as they start digging into all of the things that they’re passionate about and how they heard about the event. You want to be actively listening to start looking for what nuggets of value or common interests that you share with this other person. This should be pretty easy because, they’re just blurting out everything and all you have to do is pay attention. Find something that piques your interest. As soon as you find that thing, then dig in on that.
Here’s an example:
Maybe they start talking about how much money they recently spent on a CRM. You’re like, “Oh, my gosh! One of my friends just built a CRM. I’ve been using it. It . . . X-Y-Z,” right?
But listen carefully to find if there is something about this person, about their work, that intrigues you.
Oftentimes, especially if you’re at a networking event, it might trigger you to think of other businesses you know who could help them, or services that you provide that might actually meet their current need. But you’re actively listening, looking for “what is it about this person, about their work, that is interesting to me, that I actually want to know more about?” And that takes us to point number three: deciding if you want to stay connected with this person.
#3. Create a possibility for your conversation to continue
Now, hopefully, there’s gonna be a lot of synergy, the conversation’s going to start to flow. And you can decide, “yes, I want to stay connected with this person”. Which means your next step is to create a possibility, a way, for that conversation to continue.
That means, you say something like:
“Oh, you know what? I loved talking to you. Let me grab your phone number. We should connect sometime this week.”
Or, “Are you on LinkedIn? Let me message you so we can find a time to chat.”
Or, “Yeah, I would love to talk to you more about this. Go ahead, open up your calendar. Let’s get something on for next week.”
Whatever that is for you, driving people towards your free consult, or a LinkedIn connection, or inviting them to your Facebook group, you’re gonna wanna do that in the moment, to make sure you’ve established a connection before you leave their presence. Because nine times out of ten, after you leave a networking event, you might have a stack of business cards and not even remember who it was that you actually enjoyed talking to.
Bonus Tip: How to turn them down (politely!)
Now, on the flip side of this, if you find after you’ve done all that focused attention on them, and you’re trying to find synergies, there’s nothing there. Maybe the conversation falls flat, or maybe this person just rubs you the wrong way and they’re giving off all types of creepy sales vibes. Whatever it is, you can also decide that you don’t want to stay connected to this person.
That means, when they offer you their business card, say:
“You know what? I don’t wanna take that because, honestly, I don’t know that I can actually help you, and I’d much rather you save that for someone who’s gonna be a great resource for you.”
Or, you could say something like, “Okay, great. Yeah, I’m not really in that industry. Sorry. Hopefully, you’ll find someone else here who can help you out with that.”
But in a very polite way, you’re gonna excuse yourself from that conversation.
That’s because the last thing you wanna do is, again, end up at home with a stack full of business cards of folks that you don’t even wanna stay connected to. If yu can’t remember what value they bring to you or your business, those cards are going right into the recycle bin.
Be clear about why you’re at the networking event. Find people who can share about what they do, have synergies with you, and then establish connections in real time.
Don’t go for small talk. Go for high value.
And if you stick to these three networking strategies, I think you’ll find it isn’t nearly as painful as you thought it was.
Go ahead and drop some comments down below on how you leverage these strategies at your next networking event. And definitely, if you’re a little skittish about jumping out there, feel free to message me, and we can go together. I love these things.