The lady beside me at the networking party said, “if you think I meet people easily, you should meet my father!”
“Hey, that’s what I always say!” I replied.
What we had in common were Dads that had traveled a lot because they were in the military - different militaries from different countries, but with something in common. Our Dads had to change job, town, friends at least every three years for their entire careers. Our Dads had to learn how to meet people. Our Dads had learned how to take the sting out of meeting people.
What does Dad advise? Does he really know best?
- Always be yourself, it’s easier than trying to remember two stories
- Don’t be afraid to talk to strangers, you might just learn something from the experience
- Lead the conversation by asking a question the other person can answer
- Follow with another question that they can answer
- Know your own answers to the same two questions, because they are likely to ask you back
- It won’t hurt you to be friendly and civil
How does this work in practice and is it advice that requires you to be gregarious before you begin? No. These are simple and practical tips on meeting people that can be applied to any business networking situation.
Let’s try an example. I walk up to you at a business networking function.
1. Always be yourself. This is straight forward advice. If you meet me, I expect that it won’t take you long to discover if I am genuine or if I am a fake. This is advice that works both ways. Also, he is right. If you are genuine, you only have one story that you need to know. Any more and you are bound to mix up the details.
2. Don’t be afraid to talk to strangers goes against most of the advice we have been given our whole lives. My Mother was always making sure that we did not talk to strangers. But Dad has another angle. We are adults and meeting new people opens a source of new information to us. “More input” as my daughter would say. New people have different experiences, knowledge, and backgrounds. Dad is right. We can learn things by meeting new people.
3 and 4. Lead the conversation by asking a question that the other person can answer. This gives the asker two advantages. One is that I am taking control of the conversation by asking the first question and choosing the topic. The second is that I am giving the you a chance to look good and put you at ease. Dad’s favourite opening question is “Where are you from?” He says that this is a question that everyone can answer. His follow up question is “What is it like there?” You can see where this is going, “How did you get here?” and so on. These are all questions you can answer.
5. Know the answers to the same questions because you are likely to ask me back. This is obvious. Asking people questions that I cannot answer myself means that I am not really treating you fairly in the first place. I am not being genuine or nice. It is better to be nice. Which leads directly to number 6.
6. It won’t hurt me to be friendly and civil. It is likely that you will treat me the same way in return.
And herein lies the big secret. If you are genuine and well mannered, you approach people with a couple of questions that you know they can answer, and then they ask you back and you give well considered answers, and you talk for a bit, you are having a conversation. You can then ask more questions, give a bit more information about yourself, and voila, you are networking.
And that, my friends, is why Father knows Best. Dad is a great networker.
Have a nice day,