I have a love-hate relationship with networking. On one hand, it gets draining to be "on" for hours at a time. On the other hand, it's a fascinating thing when you realize that you get to connect with another person in this great big world.
Fortunately, my dad taught me to become a strong speaker at a young age, always correcting me when I said "um" and helping me revise speeches to include more impactful words. This translated to my networking days, when I quickly had to learn to impress someone really fast before they got distracted.
Although I understand that I don't need to be liked by everyone I meet, I always have two goals: be memorable and have my new acquaintance leave our conversation feeling like it added value to their life. Yes, they're lofty goals, but I figure that if I can't complete either of those goals, then the interaction was pretty much useless.
So, how do you get there in 60 seconds? Chances are if you can accomplish that in 60 seconds, then you are guaranteed their attention for a lot longer than that.
The first two things I always make sure to do is deliver a solid handshake and a genuine smile. You don't have to be overly excited or feign happiness but aim to be a nice, interesting, and authentic person.
From there, your only goal is to get them to talk about their favorite topic: themselves.
Start by making a comment about something you can both relate to right now - perhaps it's the similar or not so similar drinks you have in your hand, the venue of the event, or even a nod to the cool new shoes they're wearing. No matter what this first comment is, speak it with intentions to drive the conversation towards them.
My second pro tip? Get them to smile or laugh. It breaks the ice in a more unconventional way and if they don't remember what your conversation was about, at least they'll remember that you made them happy.
I was recently at an all-you-can-eat Brazilian BBQ dinner that a company I work with was sponsoring. You know, the one where they go around and keep cutting savory meat onto your plate until you ask them to stop. Anyway, I was nominated to do a 30-second spiel about the company and although I've spoken in front of large crowds before, this crowd was one filled with lawyers and C-suite executives of brand name companies. I was a little nervous.
As I stood up and started my speech, it was strong. I made eye contact, I annunciated my words, and I was genuinely excited to talk about the company. Maybe a little too excited. Halfway through my speech, just as I was getting to the good stuff, I forgot to breathe and abruptly hiccuped.
Absolutely embarrassed, I paused and immediately said, "Excuse me, that was the filet mignon coming back up."
The room erupted in laughter. I was shocked. In a room full of suit and ties, I had made them laugh. I had gotten their attention because I related it back to how everyone in that room was feeling at the moment -- overfilled with premium meat cuts.
I finished the speech in good form and later apologized to the President of our company for the slip-up, but he chuckled and replied, "It doesn't matter -- they're going to remember you. They don't remember any of the other companies except for ours."
The handful of people that came up afterward to commiserate with my fullness proved him right. Not only was it a chance to connect with new and once intimidating people, but it was also an opportunity to attract new clients. It came full circle.
Not every interaction will be perfect. In fact, it most likely won't. Sometimes your audience won't laugh. Most times, they'll be in a bad mood or they just won't feel like talking. Regardless of how it turns out, continue to drive the conversation back to them and emit those good vibes. You never know what will happen.