It took me a very long time to become comfortable conversing and connecting with other people at networking events, especially live events when meeting new people in person face to face.

I liked to blame this discomfort on the fact that I am basically a shy introvert, but the truth is that I simply didn’t have any basic knowledge of how to go about creating comfortable conversations with people, especially those I’d just met.

It wasn’t until I got really clear about the 4 basic principles of successful networking that this sad situation began to change.

Take for example principles 1 and 4

  • Principle #1 – Making a sale is NOT the primary purpose of a networking event.
  • Principle #4 – Networking as a business building tool is a long game, requiring both patience and perseverance.

These principles take the pressure of unrealistic expectations off the table.

Therefore it becomes so much easier to conduct a relaxed conversation when you aren’t operating from a pushy, salesy mode of expecting every conversation to end in a sale.

Then there are principles 2 and 3. They really get to the heart of the matter.

  • Principle #2 – Seek first to understand, then to be understood.
  • Principle #3 – Making an appointment at the event in the best and most efficient way to follow up with someone.

It’s both good psychology and good manners to invite the person with whom you are conversing to go first.

After saying you’re glad to meet that person (or something along those lines), you do this by asking questions, not all of which are business related.

  1. What brings you here this evening?
  2. Can you tell me a little bit about what you do?
  3. How long have you been doing this work? had this business?
  4. What do you like best about it?
  5. Who would be a good referral for you?

Once that person has shared what he or she does (and especially if that person hogs the conversation), here’s a graceful transition to sharing what you do that I recently heard learned from Sales and Follow-Up Coach Debbie Hoffman:

Gee, I’m curious. Do you, or anyone you know, happen to have (the problem that you solve)?

Your tone of voice is incredibly important here. Sound curious, not intrusive.

Only after that person has answered can you reply along the lines of Well, what I do is help people to (solve the problem that you help people to solve).

Waiting for the other person to answer is crucial!

Even if the pause gets rather long, resist the all too natural tendency to want to fill the void with sound.

Yes, I know. Nature abhors a vacuum; and so do human beings!

But if you jump right in with your song and dance about what you do and how great the results are that  you get; this is unfortunately a pretty reliable way to turn people off.

You are not respecting the fact that some people need time to decide how they want to answer your question.

If you see that there’s interest in what you do, that’s the time to suggest that both of you get out your cell phone calendars and make an appointment to continue the conversation at a more convenient time.

Here’s a graceful way to get out of a stuck conversation that is going on too long.

  • I don’t want to monopolize your time. Let’s join the folks over there to see what they’re up to.

If you have developed some other strategies that work for you, please share them in the Comment section below; as this blog post has only scratched the tip of the conversational iceberg.