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“I like your scarf!”
What's a better way to meet someone at a networking event than to compliment them (especially women)? Everyone likes compliments, and it puts them at ease if you start off with one.
It's daunting to the most confident of people to walk into a room of strangers and start making friends. Tell yourself that you have something in common with each and every person in the room, if only the fact that you all decided to attend the event.
Starting off with a compliment makes it easy to transition into introductions and discussions about your businesses. The more questions you ask, the easier it is to get to know your new friend.
What Do We Have in Common? You don't have to talk business at all at a networking event. If you meet a woman whose son has been potty trained recently, and you're going through the same thing, by all means, have potty talk! But leave with a business card and the knowledge that you just started building a relationship with someone.
Remember: common ground makes a great followup. When you send a note saying it was great meeting a contact, you can add a personal note about your new common ground (“Did you hear the Little League is starting up soon? Let me know if your son will be joining!”) that can make an otherwise stuffy business relationship more personable.