At a networking event, the difference between spending an awkward hour swapping business cards and a career-changing hour making genuine connections is actually pretty small. “It comes down to having the right words,” says Selena Soo.
Selena Soo is a publicist and marketing strategist and a seven-figure business owner. She built her successful business the good old fashioned way: through relationships. During her seven years of business, she has hosted and attended over 100 industry events, big and small, to form and nurture meaningful connections. Over 200 business owners partner with her as affiliates to promote Impacting Millions, her online training program for getting publicity, which has generated millions of dollars for her company.
Selena believes that successful networking starts with having the right mindset. Below she shares some things you must remember before approaching people at networking events:
1. Instead of thinking, “This person is such a big deal! Why would they want to talk to me?”
Remind yourself: “This person is amazing—and I can’t wait to show them what I bring to the table too!”
It’s easy to get intimidated by someone you admire. You tend to put them on a pedestal, which can make it hard to really connect with them. You may also feel insecure because that person’s achievements are more impressive than yours, or so you may tell yourself. The truth is, everyone has gifts. Comparison, while it can be motivating, isn’t the way to really seeing your talents and accomplishments for what they are, and recognizing that you have something to contribute to the life of the person you admire. Your are just different from them, so don’t be shy to also talk about yourself.
2. Instead of asking, “What do you do?”
Say: “Have you set any career goals for yourself this year?” or “What big projects are you working on right now?”
It has gotten so cliché to start a conversation by asking someone what they do for a living. Almost everyone does it, and it can often lead to very superficial conversations. Additionally, some people can feel embarrassed or awkward to talk about what they do—even at a networking event. So instead of stunting conversation, shift the focus to something that sparks conversation (dive into the person’s goals and passions). There will likely be more conversation material there.
3. Instead of talking about the weather…
Say: “So, what made you decide to come to the event tonight?”
Small talk will not lead to deep connections; it is often an escape from awkward silences. Avoid it as much as possible, and if you’re wondering how to start the conversation, ask people about their reasons for coming to the event. This will likely bring up shared interests, individual or similar goals, which is far more interesting. You’ll also have increased your chances of leaving with some solid professional connections.
4. Instead of saying: “Let me know if there’s anything you need help with!”
Say: “If you need a friendly Amazon review for your book, let me know,” or “I know someone great who could help you with SEO.”
It’s rare that people take you up on vague offers to assist, but specific ones are easier to figure out how to fit into their busy schedule. When it comes to offering your help to someone, be as specific as possible. They are more likely to say yes if you address a particular challenge they’re facing. And remember it doesn’t have to be about you. You may not work in business development, but know an extremely talented friend you could recommend. Being a talent agent who connects great people still makes you someone they’ll want to know.