Anyone who’s ever been to a networking event, be it conference, convention or even a general meeting, has experienced the moment in which they want to keep talking to someone but feel they’ve probably overstayed their welcome.
In those moment, you may ask yourself, “What can I do to make this person want to stay around and listen to what I have to say?” or “How can I cement this person as a contact?”
Recently, marketing strategist, professional speaker and instructor at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business, Dorie Clark, contributed an article to the Harvard Business Review in which she offers four tips for better networking.
These tips are as follows:
- Watch their body language. When speaking with a potential new contact, it’s important to watch their movements so that you can be sure you’re not being clingy. There are obvious cues that your conversation partner is ready move on, including checking the time on a watch or phone. But Clark says to watch for other clues.
“A dramatic shortening of their responses (‘Yes, great point, OK’ instead of sharing a more detailed story); a tightening of their body, like they’re ready to get on the move; and especially the positioning of their feet. If their feet are pointed away from you, it’s a strong sign they want to leave ASAP,” are all cues it’s time to move on, according to Clark.
- Learn to time yourself. Clark says, “When you’re speaking, your sense of time can become distorted.” Obviously you don’t want to drone on when speaking with a new contact. At networking events, the amount of time available for talking to people is short, especially at large events. Clark recommends practicing timed talking before big networking events. “Just as you’d practice for media interviews, work with a trusted friend and start timing yourself in mock networking conversations,” she says. “Learn what it feels like to speak for 30 to 60 seconds at a time.”
After you’ve talked to a contact for this amount of time, only proceed if you have clear signs they’re still engaged in the conversation.
- Give them more airtime. People like to talk about themselves. If you allow new contacts plenty of opportunities to talk about themselves, you’re more likely to keep your audience engaged. Clark recommends networkers, “Practice asking open-ended questions that draw out your conversational partner, as well as follow-ups that allow you to go deeper.” This also lets you learn more about this contact, making conversation easier.
- Make yourself interesting. Clark recommends making sure you have interesting answers to common “small talk” questions. When people ask, “What’s been going on?”, make sure you have an answer ready that will keep them engaged. Clark says, “Practice answers that lend a spark of intrigue or encourage people to ask more questions.
For Clark’s full article and more from the Harvard Business Review, click here.