Always be prepared. It is the Boy Scout motto, but preparation is also critical when meeting new people at a networking event. You might want to start by first listening to the people you meet to get a better idea of the variety of styles that people use to describe themselves.
Also it's important to brainstorm and come up with several possible topics to cover depending on who you’re talking to. A good source of material could be any kind of new developments or interesting news about you or your company. Also are there any innovative products or service features that distinguish you from your competition? Keep in mind who your target audience is so that your message is relevant and as well as engaging to them.
Try to keep in mind that you'll want to share just enough information to pique people’s curiosity in order to keep them interested. You want to be engaging without going into too much or too little detail. Ever get caught in a conversation where you had to fake a biological break in order to escape? I have and you don’t want to be one of “those people” that people avoid.
To make sure you cover everything you want without being redundant or boring you might develop an outline of just what you'd like to include in your initial conversation.
Here’s an easy approach to consider:
YOU: Intro (Hi I’m Mary McFarlin)
THEM: Hi I’m so and so
YOU: 2 or 3 important points (I run the Linked N Chicago group, I’m so interested in hearing about what you do, I’d like to tell you more about what I’m working on if you’re interested)
THEM: I am a such and such and I……….
YOU: Summary and your business card (It was great to meet you and I hope we can connect again – here’s my card). Alternatively, you can excuse yourself politely depending how you feel or you recognize the person you’re talking to from a poster you saw in the post office.
THEM: Wow great to meet you I’d love to meet over coffee– or alternatively, why are you looking at me like that?
Remember that the content of your conversation is critical, and an outline will enable you to be sure you don't lose people. How long you talk depends on the engagement – it’s better to end on a fresh and exciting note than to ignore the fact that the person you are talking to has turned to stone. Next time you meet you can discuss the number of new developments, or newsworthy happenings.
About the Author: Mary McFarlin is the Group founder of Linked N Chicago, Chicago's best and largest business professional networking group. She is also the CEO of The Chicago Project LLC. Check Mary McFarlin out on LinkedIn