Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Conversation : The Core of Networking

In today’s challenging economic environment, being able to network effectively is becoming increasingly important.  Building your network and maintaining existing contacts is vital, with it you will gain introductions and, ultimately, work opportunities and personal opportunities. And although social media allows us to stay engaged & ‘connected’ to our contacts, it is necessary to peel back the layers of the onion and ensure we are still getting to the core of networking – which is the conversation.
Prior to breaking down the key element of conversation, we need to be reminded that networking requires initiative and persistence. It needs to be adopted as a way of life and results are unlikely to be instant.  Networking needs to be worked at and following up with people that you meet is essential.  It is important to remember that while the person that you are talking to may not give you business, they may know someone who will be able to use your service or product. Most importantly remaining aware of where there might be opportunities for others is very potent and will encourage others to look out for opportunities for you. A conversation in many environments can often create opportunities and develop your profile more effectively than any other method.
That said, are you a good conversationalist? Are you someone that is able to strike up an engaging conversation to achieve a specific goal? Yes a goal. Many people might think that having an agenda is a bit ‘self-serving’ but a conversation without a focus just wastes time from the limited time we all already have. And our focus & agenda might be to ‘re-connect’ to the individual which is completely a-ok, however, how can we plan accordingly to make the most of every conversation!
When you talk with people, personally and professionally, it’s important to know where they are coming from. If we understand a bit about their ‘realities’, purpose, motivation, or values – we can make the interaction that much more effective. As an example, in business, do a little research beforehand by ‘Googling’ their name or viewing their profile on LinkedIn. This will give you a window into what they are interested in, possibly their work experience, and who they are. Learning about people and preparing before your conversations will take you a long way and help to distinguish you from the rest.
The greatest conversationalists are memorable: They influence a person’s thinking in positive ways for the better. A proactive, upbeat communication style – when talking and writing – sprinkled with a little wit and humor goes a long way. Lastly, it is imperative that although we may have a goal, purpose, or agenda for the conversation, we still need to be genuinely interested in what the other person is saying. If not, our ability to have an effective conversation goes out the window because listening & being engaged are qualities of great conversationalists.
So, how do we make every conversation count? Here are 10 things to keep in mind to maximize our networking opportunities and make every conversation count:
1. Be excited by the outcome.
2. Be inspired by your purpose.
3. Be masterful through your preparation.
4. Be connected through your caring.
5. Be focused by your listening.
6. Be magnetic in your language.
7. Be inviting through your openness.
8. Be responsive through your improvisation.
9. Be deliberate in your practice.
10. Be consistent through your follow up.

Whether you are in sales or marketing, at a networking event or at a social party, striking up and holding great conversations is at the core of everything we do – and of achieving success. It starts with being confident to striking conversation and ends with a level of follow through. 
Curtis Christopherson

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