I recently sat next to Will Kintish at a networking lunch. He was presenting a seminar on how to become a more confident and effective networker at The Business Network. Will’s company, Kintish Networking Skills, provides training and he is a speaker in the UK and overseas; helping individuals and teams for 17 years. He’s been particularly popular in the academic, technical, professional and financial sectors who have not been your ‘typical networking types’.
What are the best techniques for starting to talk to people at networking events?
“Start by looking for other individuals who would be delighted to have someone to talk to, or ‘open groups’ where there is space to join. When you approach, make sure you smile and make eye contact and say: ‘Please may I join you?’. Shake hands if possible and say: ‘Hello, I’m Will’ - don’t say what you do at this point. Really listen to what the other person’s name is. Then try to focus on asking a question and using their name - people love that.”
What are the right questions to ask first?
“Use ice breakers such as ‘What made you decide to come along to the launch of this group?’, ‘Have you been to this venue before?’ or ‘How do you know our hosts today?’. Never start selling your business. At this point you are selling yourself. You need to be a likeable human being. You can try asking non-work questions such as ‘Do you have any plans this weekend?’. It all helps to develop relationships through likeability, common ground and trust.”
Will advises to try and find out what the other person does first. “When they ask you, try to answer saying: ‘what you do’ not ‘what you are’. For example, say: ‘I help companies with xxx to help them gain more xxx/avoid xxxx/save xxx’. Go on to ask business questions such as ‘How was 2017 for you?’ or ‘How many people do you work with?’ or ‘How did you get started?’”
People worry about getting stuck with someone. How do you recommend dealing with that?
“You don’t have to dump someone by saying: ‘I must go and get a drink’. You can suggest that you both go and mingle and meet some more people. When you join a new group that person will be likely to engage with someone else. If that group is not of interest to you, simply say: ‘Do excuse me’ and move on.”
When is the right moment to hand over your business card?
“Talk first. If you find a positive link during your conversation, suggest exchanging cards. This is the moment to then say: ‘How do you feel about me giving you a call?’ or even ‘Shall we set a date to meet?’ The aim is to have one or two quality conversations and follow them up.”
What follow-up techniques do you recommend?
“A phone call is ideal. You may dread the thought, but just remember you got on well, they said yes to you calling and the worst they can do is say they don’t want to meet up. They are not rejecting you personally, just the offer of help.”
Do you have any tips on doing a one minute pitch?
Ideally you want to include who you help, give some free advice and say a little bit about you.
And finally, how would you describe a world-class networker?
“Someone who has self-belief, is proud of their work and always polite and reliable. It’s also important to be generous with sharing helpful information and be patient. You also need to plan and listen carefully too.”