Can you Forward things? And I don’t mean email…
Allow me to explain.
I consistently gain clients out of my networking, often directly at the networking event. One of my tricks to this is a communication technique I call Forwarding.
Forward a Conversation
Did you ever play the game ‘I’m going on a picnic’?
Someone starts, I’m going on a picnic and I’m bringing Apples, what are you bringing? The next person says I’m going on your picnic and bringing Apples and Biscuits and the next I’m going on your picnic and I’m bringing Apples, Biscuits, and Clams. To play you have to pay attention to what everyone else is saying and be prepared to add to the list alphabetically.
Treat all conversations a little like this game.
Start by listening.
Actually listening, not thinking about what you’re going to say next.
Then, consider how you can add to the conversation in a way that leaves others able to contribute as well. For example, ask a question that relates to everyone, or offer some words of encouragement or validation.
A critical element is that you’re not looking to prove a point, not looking to ‘win’ or be right. You’re not looking at ‘what’s in this for me?’, or ‘who can I convert to a client?’. Nope, you’re just looking to contribute and include others.
It’s as much about active listening as it is carefully considering how and what you say.
People hire those that they Like, Know and Trust.
If you’re only angling for a sale, or a job, or a reward – well, to be frank, you’re not particularly likable. Forwarding a Conversation will help people like you.
Business (whether you own one, or are building a career working for one) is about who you know. If you leave an event with no leads on jobs or clients, but a bunch of new acquaintances then you’re in fabulous shape. It’s highly predictable that one of those new connections will lead you to new clients, a lead on a new job, etc.
Forward the Relationship
Most people go to a networking event armed with a stack of business cards to pass out.
Sure, having a card and way to be contacted is expected. However, if your strategy is to give out as many business cards as possible, you’re just wasting time and money.
Instead, make it your goal to collect business cards from people you genuinely want to connect with.
They key here is that you take their card, this puts you in control of the next step. If you give your card and dont’ get theirs, you’re putting the burden on them to take the next step and the reality is, most people won’t.
Most people leave a networking event with a stack of business cards that either lives in their work bag for months, sit on their desk for months or go straight into the trash bin.
By taking their card you can be responsible for Forwarding the Relationship. If possible, write a small note on their card to help you remember who they are, why they jumped out at you. I often put the cards of people I’m excited to connect with in my pocket, and the cards of everyone else in my bag. This way at the end of the event I have a small group to follow up with.
Now for the important, critical piece. Follow Up!
The very next day, I send an email to everyone in my short stack. I tell them how much I enjoyed meeting them, reference something from our conversation, and then invite them to join me for a cup of coffee or a phone call to talk more without the chaos of the event. I suggest a day/time and location.
When you actually meet, approach the one on one meeting with the same concepts from Forward the Conversation above. Once you’ve met them for a personal, one on one conversation, it’s likely that you’ve established that the Like you (because they agreed to meet), now they Know you (because you’ve spent quality time together) and because you know your stuff and you’re an expert at what you do, they’re beginning to Trust you.
Forward a Room
When you attend an event where there is someone speaking at the front of a room giving a presentation or workshop, try these things.
- Attempt to sit in the front row.
- Pay attention, considering what the intention of the speaker is (there’s that active listening again).
- If the speaker makes a joke, laugh.
- If they ask for volunteers, raise your hand.
- If they ask a question, be prepared with a response.
If they’re looking for the audience to have questions, because you were listening, you’re prepared with that too. Make yourself their partner in the audience.
Another way to look at this is lead by example, and take your leadership cues from whoever is the host.
Not only does this ensure that you get the most from the event (because you were paying attention), it also positions you as a partner to the speakers and leaders both in their eyes and in the eyes of many in the room.
Often when I go to events others seek me to chat and learn more about me, I believe it’s due to my mastery of Forwarding the Room, it positions me as someone who partners and collaborates well. It has them start to Like, Know and Trust me, just a bit.
The Elevator Pitch
Sorry to tease you, we’re not going to get into this here. Because while it is important to be able to describe who you are, what you do and what you need concisely – eventually – it’s absolutely not required to be successful at networking
Most everyone in that room is there to talk about what they do, who they serve and what they need. They’re all in their own heads, assessing who they should talk to, how to get what they came for.
If everyone is focused on what they need, it becomes really challenging to make true connections. To truly develop relationships where you have the Like, Know, Trust factor.
The elevator pitch is needed because you want to let the person you’re talking to know, in 30 seconds or less, what you can do for them.
How can you really answer that question effectively if you don’t know what they want/need?
So rather than obsessing about your elevator pitch, focus on listening skills.
Stumble over your own pitch, and move quickly into questions about them.
What does everyone else in the room do, what do they want, how can you serve them? Build your own Like, Know, Trust factor. I promise you, eventually they will ask you what you do and they won’t care if you have the perfect elevator pitch, because they’re actually listening to you.