Networking is all the rage, but if you’re introverted, the idea of meeting someone cold is not appealing. So how do you optimize a brief meeting with a prospect, an industry colleague, or potential employer? In these popular speed-networking events, 5 minutes may be all the face time you get to establish a rapport — which, let’s face it, is the very beginnings of a relationship. However, it is the very foundation of strong ones.
In many ways, networking is like dating — the relationship will only take off, if there is mutual interest: #swiperight
How do you spark that interest? Here are five ways to establish a solid rapport, and they can even help a die-hard extrovert:
Set your rapport-building agenda.
As with anything, you need to have an agenda — sounds cynical, but you should know exactly what your goal is for your meeting. Ask yourself, “What do I want to get out of making this new contact?” Answer that, and crystalize it in your mind. You need no more than 2-3 items on your agenda.
Keep reading. I provide 3 proven agenda items for effective communications below.
Raise a question.
Consider a leading question that will show your new contact that you are familiar with and have an interest in what they do. But that question should also lead you down a path that makes your next step seem natural.
Example: “I read your last thought leadership piece on XYZ. I loved that you took a position on ZYX. What do you think about [insert something organic to the topic that will tee up your mission/interests/value]?”
A Harvard study has found that there is a link between asking a question and likeability. Be sure to genuinely listen to the answer and ask a follow up question or engage with the answer in some way.
Share your mission.
Some of you have been coached on how to deliver a great elevator pitch. Think of this as your mission. This is the one or two sentences that sum up who you are and the value you bring. For instance, mine is:
“I help businesses and people make money and thrive at the intersection of business, culture, and technology.”
That is bigger than a title or a job description, and it allows your contact to see your potential. When you share this value proposition, be certain to project confidence.
Call them to action.
Invite them to visit your blog, your LinkedIn page, or to look over your resume. This is your time to lead them on a path to get to know you after your brief meeting ends.
Your meetings are only as good as the follow up you give it. Whether it’s a phone call, an e-mail, or a LinkedIn connection, you want to ensure that your follow up is meaningful to your connection and not simply self-serving.
Now that you’ve established a rapport, it’s time to network. Here are 5 things you can do, if you absolutely don’t like the idea of it.