What to Do Once You Admit, “I’m Clueless at Networking Events”

by: Bill Ringle

Have you ever seen someone at a business networking event who wished they were almost anywhere but with other business people? Come on, surely you’ve noticed when someone stays on the edges of the room, doesn’t make eye contact, doesn’t greet people, and in general looks timid and a little anxious about what to do to make this time work for themselves and their companies.

Well, here are three approaches that have helped novices as well as experienced business people develop a higher degree of mastery with business networking.

  1. Come prepared with what you want to get out of an event. In essence, know why you’re there. Are you there to find prospects? Are you looking to hire a person with a certain skill set? Do you want feedback on a new service or product in a casual environment? There are at least a dozen other good reasons to participate in a networking event – just decided in advance why you’re taking time out of either your workday or time away from family or friends.

  2. Come prepared with good questions. Once you know your purpose, then figure out a few questions to ask to a) make sure you’re talking to the right person, and b) get at the heart of the matter. Let’s say you run a custom web applications company and want to find leads for your business at a professional business leads exchange group. The right person for you would be the owner of a business that needed to automate and simplify a complex business process, or someone who could make an introduction to such a person. After introducing yourself, you might ask someone there, “ Do you know of any business associates in other firms that talk about having a lot of moving parts to their business or of being overwhelmed by paperwork?” If that person is a candidate they might tell you about their needs; if not, they will be more likely to think of a prospect for you based on the symptom you shared rather than the solution you offer.

  3. Come prepared with good answers to easily anticipated questions. This includes all the obvious ones that come up in small talk, such as:

  • What’s new?
  • What do you do?
  • Who’s a good prospect for you?
  • How did you get into this business?
  • And so on…

If you find these tips helpful, let me know about your successes. Or, we might just run into each other at a networking event and you can show me your new skills and confidence.