What’s the best way to network at social events?


Q and A by C.J. HaydenYou can make many excellent contacts for your business by meeting people at non-business events and locations. If you have been limiting the scope of networking to something that only takes place at an official “networking event,” consider a much wider definition. Networking is the process of creating a pool of contacts from whom you can draw referrals, resources, ideas, and information, not just clients. Your networking pool almost certainly should include friends, relatives, neighbors, and members of any group you participate in.

Networking at social, cultural, and community events can be very fruitful. Most of us spend a considerable amount of time socializing with family, friends, neighbors, and people who share our hobbies, or attending functions at schools, churches, stadiums, and theaters. We meet people at the grocery store, coffee shop, health club, and doctor’s office.

You don’t necessarily need to approach people you meet at non-business venues like these any differently than people you meet at a business function, but then I don’t recommend that you start selling to people as soon as you meet them at a business event, either.

If I meet someone at a Chamber of Commerce mixer who seems like they would be a prospect for my business, I might say, “You know, I might be able to help you with that. Could I call you and we could talk about it?” Then I would ask for their card and give them mine.

If I meet someone at a wedding who seems like they would be a prospect for my business, I might say, “You know, I might be able to help you with that. Could I call you and we could talk about it?” Then I would exchange phone numbers with them if neither of us had our cards. (Although truth be told, I rarely attend any kind of event without mine.)

To me, the main difference between the conversations at these two events would be where business came in. At the Chamber, we might begin our conversation with “what do you do?” At the wedding, we might begin with “How do you know the bride and groom?” At the Chamber, we would naturally talk first about our businesses and social topics would come later, if at all. At the wedding, we would naturally talk first socially and only turn to business topics later, if at all.

I don’t think there is any environment where talking business is off limits, if it is part of a two-way conversation of interest to both parties. The one thing you don’t want to do is press your business card into someone’s hand and say, “please buy from me.” And that holds just as true at the Chamber of Commerce as at a wedding.

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