How to build real relationships at networking events

by Ronnie Nurss on December 14, 2011

Honestly, most networking events suck.

It should never be a competition to see who can meet the most people or collect the most business cards. It’s not Pokemon. It shouldn’t be about talking to someone for 5 minutes then jumping to the next “target.” It shouldn’t be anything else but one thing: building real relationships.

My personal goal when and if I go to networking events is this: have one amazing conversation that could lead to building one great, mutually beneficial relationship.

If I spend most of the event meeting and sharing an in-depth conversation with one person, great! Quality over quantity. The only other priorities for me? Meeting with and reconnecting people I already know and like….and the free food. If I’m lucky, free booze.

How do you create one awesome relationship? Here are 3 strategies I use:

1)  Introduce and get introduced

Want to make the best first impression? Avoid cheesy openers, side jokes, or the cold approach in general. Get introduced.

It’s the ultimate social proof. Nothing can beat getting introduced by a respected person both you of know, and probably like. Most of the time, you’ll get introduced with a nice compliment.

This happened to me just last week.

“Hey, _______. Have you met Ronnie yet? You both share a lot in common and he’s a semi-pro racquetball player!” That really happened. And then we talked about what sports we love and how much sports have impacted our lives. Then about favorite sports teams, stories, and then commitment to meet up and play.

Also, whenever you can, introduce people. Don’t think just about you. Constantly be on the lookout for interesting people that you can potentially connect with others.

There’s really no better feeling then being introduced or introducing. Be a connection builder, for yourself, and your network. People will appreciate it and want to return the favor.

2)  Don’t talk about yourself

Very simple.  Baltasar Gracian said it best: “You must either praise yourself, which is vanity, or criticize yourself, which is meekness.”

Focus the conversation on the others you talk with. Ask sincere and genuine questions and actually get to know others as people. Be interested in their business, hobbies, activities, etc. The only time you can talk about yourself is if they directly ask you…about you. Answer succinctly then direct the conversation back to them. Don’t recite or memorize your LinkedIn resume.

Use their name, a lot, so you remember it. Make and keep healthy eye contact. Don’t have darting eyes, always looking around for the next person you want to meet. Smile, laugh, and be personable.

Don’t ask the standard, boring questions. Ask personal questions based on the information they give you. If it helps, do something easy like paraphrase what they say and ask if you’re understanding them accurately.

Last tip: Make their business your business. Give them great ideas or thoughts and they’ll like you.

3)  Always GIVE, NEVER ask

No matter how big or how small, always give value to your new friend. Always.

After learning about them, personally or professionally, give them value that can really help. It could be as simple as emailing them a relevant article you just read. Offer services or help, for free. Introduce them to another person that you think they’ll like or could help them accomplish their goals.

Reciprocation is very powerful. The best relationships start this way. It’s the perfect way to follow up after meeting them.

Last Note:  Dale Carnegie hit it on the head — people like to do business and work with people they like. So focus on building that relationship, the friendship, first. Don’t be a salesman.

Additional tips:

A) Make people laugh.
B) When in doubt, paraphrase with a further question to build rapport and understanding.
C) Smile! Babies are the master of this. Ever frown at a smiling baby? NO, never! Who does that?! Genuine smiles are contagious.

Did you like this? Share it:

Previous post:

Next post: