Mother told us not to talk to strangers. However, when we are at fund-raisers or business socials, we are supposed to speak to strangers.
Redefine "strangers." When we are among colleagues, we are not with strangers. When we attend business events, we are with others who share similar issues (layoffs, flattened corporate infrastructures, expanded job descriptions, and the like).
Those of us who sell or market must make the most of events because they are golden opportunities to develop contacts, create rapport, and increase one's resources and referral networks. It is even more important when we are selling and marketing ourselves to the next career opportunity.
Etiquette can create roadblocks. I call it the "Scarlett O'Hara syndrome" -- waiting for a proper introduction. The wait can be interminably long and prevent us from meeting people who spark our interest.
Plan a brief self-introduction of about seven to nine seconds that is clear, interesting, and delivered with energy. We can create interest with our smiles, eyes, tone, inflection, enthusiasm, and vocal pace. We have all met people who say they are happy to meet us but whose tone, facial expression, and body language indicate the opposite. Be the kind of person that others want to meet.
Our self-introductions should be keyed to the event. How we introduce ourselves at a chamber of commerceevent is different from a community fund-raiser or our children's soccer game. Give the other person something with which to strike up the conversation. We should let people know something about us and our interests (i.e., fly-fishing, opera, book clubs, tennis). Think of every event as an opportunity -- be it a ball game, ballet recital, or barbecue. Be appropriate for the event, but go with the intent of meeting the other people attending. Casual conversation is what creates a network.
Good things come to those who wait. I don't agree! I say, "Good things come to those who initiate." Waiting for people to approach us is a waste of time.
According to Adele Scheele, author of Skills for Success, the remedy is to "act like a host instead of a guest." A host is interested in others and tries to make them comfortable, which takes the onus off the host to be interesting. We become memorable by being interested. People remember those who are interested in them, especially when they learn of leads for jobs, clients, prospects, or projects.
Susan RoAne, a nationally recognized speaker on topics including networking and conversation strategies, is the best-selling author of How to Work a Room: The Secrets of Savvy Networking and What Do I Say Next? Susan RoAne and the RoAne Group may be contacted at 415-239-2224 or via www.susanroane.com.
Copyright © 2000 Susan RoAne