As co-host of quarterly networking group, Connect, Suzie discusses the art of making conversation…
When I’m asked how I bring in new client for Piece of Cake, part of me wishes that I could say it was down to my amazing online social media talents, or perhaps the ad campaign to beat all ad campaigns, or even a piece of PR that super boosted the business. In reality, most of the time, new work comes in through someone I know. Through recommendations, friendly chats, the occasional lunch or coffee – that’s how I bring in work to Piece of Cake.
Networking forms an enormous part of that. I don’t arrive at networking events thinking ‘who’s palm can I shove my business card in’, or, ‘who in this room is going to be my next client’. I usually turn up at networking events and feel like I want to cringe, run away and hide, or leave as quickly as possible.
Its history can be found here, so I won’t bore you with the origins of how it started, but more importantly, why I make time to go to every meeting. Well, for a start as I run it I have an obligation maybe – but that’s not the only reason.
We started Connect as we wanted an opportunity to meet with other people in business. Not necessarily to pick up some work, although of course that’s the ultimate aim, but to sit and talk to other people who just ‘get it’. Who get the pressures of running a business, who want to feel comfortable talking to others with similar challenges, interests or lives to their own.
I also wanted to go somewhere that didn’t make me cringe; so, we insist that the awkward silence you experience when trying to interrupt someone’s conversation, as you wait for a pause in conversation – well, it doesn’t exist at Connect. Instead whoever is talking is encouraged to stop and make the effort to include the person who’s just walked up.
There’s also none of that blah blah blah presentation stuff. I’ve limited time in my life, I don’t want to spend it being ‘sold to’ at a networking event. If you’re interesting no doubt we’ll seek each other out and chat.
If, however you aren’t at Connect and find yourself at a different networking event, of which there are many, I thought I’d put some tips together on how you can make the most of the time you have there.
Suzie’s networking tips:
- Butt-in: Don’t be afraid, to ask ‘sorry, I’m just joining you, can I interrupt, what are you discussing?’ (Easier said than done, I know.)
- Ask better questions: (I stole this tip from this blog) Try to ask something other than ‘what do you do then?’
- Bring along a friend: (But don’t stand with them all night) Take a friend for back up, but don’t stand and talk in pairs, find someone of your own to talk to with the safety of knowing your friend is close by.
- Make new friends: At my last Connect I bumped into a woman I’ve since been for a coffee with, because I knew in the few brief moments of networking that I was going to like her. And your friends make your greatest advocates!
- Follow up: If you met someone and they’re interesting, send that email, make that call, even if it’s weeks after the event, just remind them who you are and say hi.
- Network regularly: Get out and about, be seen. The more often you’re seen, the more you’re remembered! (I’m terrible at this.)
- Be a good listener: Show an interest in what the person talking has to say. Enjoy a chat, don’t just wait for your moment to talk about you.
- Make an exit: Some conversations will go on (and on), politely excuse yourself and find someone new to talk to!
I hope those tips are of some help, hope to see you soon at Connect.