(Related: Do You Miss the ‘More’ of Networking?)
So, what are the best networking ice breakers for shy people?
Or, for those simply focused on becoming Knock Out Networkers!
Stories work well, and we all have them.
A great practice is to have three or four stories prepared so you can begin conversations when you’re at events, cocktail parties, mixers, association meetings, conferences, conventions, holiday parties, golf outings, or wherever cool people hang out.
You’ll want to have several stories so you’re not sharing the same tale over and over again. Otherwise it will just feel weird.
Of course, not every conversation needs to start with a story but once you get going, you’ll probably feel more comfortable starting conversations with those you’re first meeting organically.
I’m usually prepared with recent stories about fitness, boxing (or other sports), work, my kids, successes, failures, lessons learned, or about someone accomplishing something incredible.
Lately it’s become easy (and fun) to begin conversations with, “Do you watch Game of Thrones?”
Or fill in your favorite show or movie.
Anyway, my “lead in” often sounds something like this: “Hi, I’m Michael. Very nice to meet you! May I share a quick story?”
Then I share it and ask, “Have you had a similar experience?” Or, “Do you have a similar story you could share?”
These days, I’m experiencing a lot of “firsts” with my kids, so it’s easy to share some of these stories with those that I meet, as appropriate. Since the experiences are not unusual, many of the people I’m networking with can relate and it makes for a great (and easy!) conversation.
Planning for a bat mitzvah, teaching a first-time driver, dealing with boyfriend issues, girlfriend issues, and other related drama that comes with having teenage daughters.
What’s going on in your life that you would feel comfortable sharing? It’s always great to compare notes and in some cases get advice, insight, and recommendations. Afterward, you can certainly discuss business, interests, goals, follow up, and how you might help one another.
What is the benefit of having great stories to share? You will absolutely develop more confidence in starting conversations and establishing better rapport with those you speak with at meetings. You’re more likely to have better conversations as you’ll be able to discuss things you might both have in common. You’ll certainly learn more about one another and increase the chances of making a better connection.
Isn’t that what networking is all about?
Here are some aspects to consider before you start sharing your stories with the world.
- Don’t dominate the conversation. Keep your stories or experiences short and sweet.
- Ask those that you’re speaking with about their own experiences. Be collaborative.
- Be careful not to get too personal (stories about dating, etc.).
- Don’t forget to talk about business and professional topics. Remember why you’re there!
- After story time, ask great questions about them. Their business, objectives, and goals.
- If it makes sense, exchange contact info and initiate a follow up meeting or call.
- Rinse and repeat as you meet more people. Make sure you’re meeting the “right” people!
- Consider all the good (and maybe not so good) things happening in your life and use your experiences to begin great conversations, learn, and develop important and fun relationships.
That’s my story!
— Read 7 Business Networking Reminders, on ThinkAdvisor.