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7 Foolproof Business Networking Tips

Author: Eric Garner   |   May 4th, 2011

Not everyone has the confidence to be a natural networker.

In fact, when asked, it is the one thing that people wish they were better at in business networking and social events. So how do you go about learning the tricks of meeting new people and getting on with them with confidence? Here are 7 important tips.

1. Conversational Openers

If you want to strike up a conversation with someone you don’t know, perhaps at a social function, the best starting point is to talk about their number one subject – them. Your first question should not be too open that they don’t know where to start, nor too closed that you don’t get much free information in their reply. A good format to use is the statement-plus-question format, as in “You look new here. Can I help you?”

2. Keeping a Conversation Going
If someone is willing to keep a conversation going with you, you’ll get some free information from them that you should pick up on. For example,
You:”I see from your name tag that you work for a charity. Are you based here?” Them: “No, I’m based in LA. But I’m abroad a lot.”You: “That must be interesting. What countries do you travel to?”

3. Active Listening
The technique of listening for “free information”, picking up on it, and then moving a conversation on with it shows that you are listening actively to others. When you listen actively and with empathy, you immediately make yourself more attractive to others. A conversation then becomes a sort of dance, with one person leading and the other one following.

4. Positive Feedback
Once you’ve entered into conversation with someone while networking, the exchange can move up a gear if you give positive feedback to the other person. The trick is to do it without flattery or pretence. This can be a comment from you about something that the other person tells you by way of free information. When you comment positively, you are seen as sympathetic, understanding, and likeable.

5. Safe Disclosure
People don’t reveal too much about themselves in social situations unless they feel safe. Disclosing facts, then views, and then feelings is a gradual process. One way to make progress with self-disclosures is to go at the other person’s pace, only revealing personal information at the rate they do. When people move from cold facts through shared views to open feelings, they are establishing a bond of trust between you and them.

6. Presenting Yourself
To be more attractive to others, learn some tricks of self-presentation.

First, be specific about yourself. Not, “I’m a technician” but “I’ve just started at the hospital as a technician”.

Second, don’t paint a perfect picture of yourself, add a few flaws. Not, “I was top of my year” but “I didn’t do too well at first but then I had a great teacher who helped me become top of my class”.

Third, paint word pictures to describe your feelings. Not, “I was nervous” but “My knees were knocking”. These techniques add human warmth to your conversations and make you more likeable.

7. Avoiding Controversy
The sure-fire way to kill a new friendship dead is to take opposite sides on a controversial topic. If the conversation turns to a controversial issue, don’t take a stand until you hear the other person’s point of view. In reply, put both sides of the case and you’ll sound fair and wise. Later on, when they know you better, you can share your own point of view.

It is one of the facts of life that the more confident you are in social situations, the more successful you will be in making new friends and business contacts while networking. Just be cautious – you never want it to come off as over-confidence.

Follow the 7 tips above – you’ll see that business networking can really work to your advantage and you’ll hit the right note every time.

About Eric Garner
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