In this video, Dorie shares strategies for how how to build meaningful connections right away with new contacts, including: researching them in advance to prepare yourself with possible conversation topics, working to identify commonalities, tapping into the topics they’re most passionate about, and becoming their wingman and shining a positive light on them as they interact with others.
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- A lot of people shy away from networking, because they don't like awkward small talk. Actually, no one does, myself included. I don't ever want to waste my time gabbing with a stranger about the weather, or baseball scores, or whether they like the hors d'oeuvres. But thankfully, it doesn't have to be that way. Here's how to have real and meaningful conversations with new contacts. First, whenever possible, research them in advance. It's not always feasible, but in some situations, you're going to know who's at an event.
For instance, it's highly likely that members of the host committee will be at a fundraiser, or that someone who's active in the Chamber of Commerce will be at their holiday party, or that a colleague might go to his professional association's annual conference. In that case, you can research them in advance, so you know a little more about them and their backgrounds and interests, so you can steer the conversation in fruitful areas. I once met Keanu Reeves at a fundraiser, and because I knew he'd be there, I did some research to figure out what I could talk to him about that wasn't just the movie, The Matrix.
It turns out he owns a motorcycle company, and was delighted to talk about that, and we spoke for more than 20 minutes. Next, converse with the goal of finding commonalities. When I interviewed Robert Cialdini, the eminent psychologist, about what you can do to make a favorable first impression on someone, he told me the best thing you can do is to find something you have in common. That shifts the person into now seeing you as a peer, or someone like them. It doesn't even have to be a profound connection. It could be living in the same neighborhood, or having kids the same age, or liking dogs, or having gone to the same school.
You can start with the reason you're both at this event, and work from there. Another way to make your conversations more meaningful is to find out what they're passionate about. When it comes to building real connections, it's also powerful to ask the question, what are you most excited about right now? That gives the person the opportunity to steer the conversation to something they really care about. It could be work-related, or a hobby. Maybe they've just had a breakthrough in working to cure cancer, or maybe they've had their first child, or they've taken up hang-gliding.
Whatever it is, if you ask them about it with sincere curiosity, you're likely to have a good conversation, and spark a strong connection. My last recommendation is to become their wingman. Once you learn a little something about your new contact, and have had a good chat, you can solidify the bond by starting to think of yourself as their wingman. Maybe there's someone else at the event that you think they should meet, based on the interests they've shared with you. You could offer to introduce them and make the connection. Or maybe, when someone else slides over to say hello, you can make a point of mentioning an interesting fact about your new friend, and shine a light on them.
Those are generous gestures they'll appreciate, and will help cement your connection.
- Prioritizing contacts
- Building meaningful connections
- Managing your time
- Hosting networking events
- Networking on social media