The other day, our chamber of commerce group, Executive Express-o, had an excellent conversation about various approaches we use to make good connections during a first time encounter. These opportunities occur every day in elevators, lines at the coffee shop and networking events, to name a few. This is a list of thoughts and ideas the group shared:
- Keep in mind the situation and intent. The approach will be different with a stranger in an elevator than in front of a network group or with a focused introduction from a mutual acquaintance.
- Be sure to make open visual contact, eye-to-eye.
- Demonstrate positive energy. Most people don’t want to go over the top on this but many just do not come across positive! …even when they are positive.
- When making a 1 – 2 minute introduction, as in a networking round table, think about talking briefly about what you do and then state your name and company name at the end of the brief.
- Shorter can be more effective. Get to the most important key point or two and let the rest come out later as mutual interest is generated. Be sure not to try to deliver your whole business story in a first time, two minute introduction!
- Think about what your key one or two word descriptor or catch phrase might be. The descriptor you want your new acquaintance to store away in their mind about you and your business.
- It is a challenge to deliver the same message over and over again and not have it come across as a canned blurb.
- A positive opener can be effective, like: “I love to go to work each day because…”.
- You probably change your clients’ lives. Stating that you do may be a bit over the top in a first time introduction/encounter. When sharing such success stories in follow on discussions, be careful about protecting the confidentiality of your clients.
- Ask for something, or
- Ask what you might be able to give to / do for the person you are meeting (NOT your service or product!).
We also shared some misgivings about this sort of blind, spontaneous interaction:
- Many successful accomplished people, including many at the table that morning, have a difficult time getting comfortable with blind, first time meetings with strangers.
- The length of time we have to make a cold self introduction is often daunting. It is difficult to communicate our differentiation in 25 words or less. (But see “Shorter can be more effective above!)
- Some of the 60 second introductions we tried out on each other seemed to presume too big a leap from the service, support or product offered and the result promised. “I will improve your advertising (Web Site, HR, Strategic Planning …) and you will earn significantly greater profits!” If there is interest in the leg of the stool, there is already a link to the longer term result.
- Sometimes the words we use can narrow the focus too much. Do you help your clients get on to “retirement” or “the next step”?
- It is challenging to balance passion and energy for what we do with being over the top and coming across in a less than positive light. “I love to go to work each day because…” could be over the top!
We all agreed that there are many opportunities to make valuable connections but that it is often a challenge to do so in a way we are confident about and happy with. Please reflect on our comments above and offer yours below. Also, I have found it valuable to go through my 60 second introduction with a few colleagues round table style and encourage their feedback. I then buff it up a bit and give it another try. In an hour or so over lunch, three or four people can significantly improve each others first time connectivity!