Networking 101: 6 Tips To Get The Table Talking
Are you finding that, now the summer events calendar is in full swing, you are having to network at talks, dinners and launches much more regularly? As a lively speaker bureau assisting over 1,000 events a year, we have plenty of tips and tricks up our sleeves for communicating with confidence.
At any event there is that brief moment when you look anxiously at the table plan. Casting your eye swiftly over the other names with the same table number attached to them, you start thinking about the conversations that lie ahead and whether you will have fun and click with the people you are spending a sizeable chunk of the occasion with.
Different people react to this scenario in different ways but from my experience, here are six key points to keep in the back of your mind as you approach the table!
Everyone is in the Same Boat
You sit down at your table and glance at everyone else who looks animated and engaged, deep in conversations and your immediate thought is that they all know each other and you know no one, but push that thought from your mind! Remember that everyone is in the same boat and making those first overtures to discover common links and shared experiences. Jump in with both feet - it will make that initial dread so much quicker to get over.
Take The Lead
Kicking off the conversation is the hardest part so try an anecdote to give common ground. The more anodyne the better as it will include everyone and get people talking initially. There is no harm in having the story pre-prepared in your mind to use if and when appropriate.
Find Common Interests
Once you have broken ground, try and find common interests with individuals - listen to answers, pick up on small details, show an interest. Don’t be afraid to show ignorance in their specialist subject, everyone loves to demonstrate their knowledge and giving your new found friend a platform will automatically forge bonds and generate interest.
Whether everyone is wearing a lanyard or if there are name places at your table, encourage people to join in the conversation by addressing them by name. Grab a sneaky peak at their names and then ask them what they think of the event or a certain topic. By using their names when addressing them, they become part of the conversation and more importantly have a feeling of being part of the group.
First impressions count in these digital times more than ever before. That initial contact with new faces should be with a confidence and openness, expressing that you want to be part of the event with them and make it memorable for all of you.
Lastly, but most importantly, get involved! Enjoy the event, smile and show engagement. The more you throw yourself in, the more people will join you and conversations will become a whole lot easier. Let everyone be swept up in your enthusiasm…its infectious!
Mark Jeffries , former Merrill Lynch stockbroker turned keynote speaker, conference host and TV presenter, advises us to talk less, ask more, listen and learn!
"It’s no secret that we, as humans, love to talk about ourselves. In a social setting, it seems as if there is nothing worse than being stuck with one of these “long talkers”.However, in a business networking situation sometimes allowing the other person to do all the talking puts you in the eventual driving position.When you ask the right questions, show interest and truly listen, you will not only make this new contact of yours feel great but you will pick up and learn fascinating information about them that will allow your second conversation to be something that drives towards your own success!"
Lee Warren , an expert in behavioural persuasion and influential communication, has two superb tips to make the coffee breaks or drinks reception work for you.
"Firstly, always make the first move. Don’t wait for people to approach you. Just say hello to the nearest person to you who’s on their own. It helps you and it helps them.Secondly - stand out from the crowd by asking more interesting questions. My golden rule is ‘if you ask boring questions, you get boring answers’. Ask people things like ‘what do you think about ...?’.Most of us love talking about ourselves and our own opinions, and you’ll have more interesting conversations if you encourage it!"
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