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Business networking – how to get better at talking

I’ve never been the sort of person who revels in mingling with people I don’t know. I’m not alone either. For many of us, the phrase ‘business networking opportunity’ fills us with dread. However, being able to talk to people we don’t know is a skill we should master.

Business networking is an important part of growing a business and let’s face it, even in our personal lives, it’s a lot easier if we can talk to each other without embarrassing ourselves.

If you’re feeling uncomfortable, remember that the chances are 90% of the people in the room are too. They’ll probably be relieved that someone has come over to talk to them.

What do I talk about when business networking?

Once the initial introductions are done, what are the best conversation topics to try? If you ask yes or no questions then you’ll probably get yes or no answers, so try to avoid those. It’s very easy to talk about the weather (we’ve all done it) but push yourself to try something else. Look at a news channel or website on your way to the event and pick out a couple of things to talk about.

Here are some otherquestions to get the conversation started:

  • How did you get here today?
  • Isn’t this venue spectacular. Have you been here before?
  • Have you tried the food? The duck wraps are delicious.
  • That last speaker was really interesting. Which bit of the day stood out for you?

Show them you can relate

Now I’m not a dog person, but if someone started telling me all about their pampered pooch; instead of saying “I haven’t got a dog”, I might say, “I haven’t got a dog, but I often take my in-laws dog for a walk.”

It shows an understanding and keeps the conversation going for longer. Similarly, if you don’t have children but someone is telling you all about their son who has just learnt to walk, you could say, “I remember when my friends little one started walking. They really keep you on your toes.”
It’s not about lying, but it’s about finding a way to contribute to the conversation which will help to establish a connection.

Avoid one-upmanship when business networking

This one can be a real conversation killer. When you’re trying hard to keep talking, it can be easy to out-do someone without even realising. If someone mentions that their daughter has just picked up her exam results and got 5 Bs and 5Cs, don’t jump in and say, “my daughter got 10As.” Better to say something like, “she must be pleased, what is she going to do next?”

If you’re asked what results your child received then that’s different.

Other conversation killers

Not listening to someone. If you ask someone a question, make sure you don’t get distracted by the plate of canapes doing the rounds. Show them that you’re listening.

Don’t, don’t, don’t look at your phone during your conversation. There is no excuse!

How to leave a conversation

One of the most difficult parts of a conversation is how to end it. It’s an important skill because the point of business networking is that you speak to more than one person.

Make sure you don’t interrupt them mid-sentence to say, “sorry, I just need to go to the bar.” When you have the talking stick, say something like “It’s been so nice talking to you, can I give you my business card?”

You could say, “it was really interesting talking to you. I’ve just seen someone that I was hoping to catch up with but can I give you my business card?”

Just make sure that you’re polite, you never know when you might bump into these people again.

Talk to us

At THP, we love sitting down with people and having a good chat about their business. We think it’s a really important thing to do if we want to get to know you.

You can speak to your local THP office located in CheamChelmsfordWanstead and Saffron Walden anytime. If you can’t pop in and see us though, don’t worry, we’re always happy to speak on the phone too.

Avatar for Kirsty Demeza
About Kirsty Demeza

With a portfolio that ranges from startups to companies with a £10 million turnover, Kirsty’s talent for working closely with her clients ensures her services remain in strong demand.

“The most rewarding part of my role is seeing clients succeed,” she says. “When you help a new business and watch it expand into new premises and secure big contracts, it’s a great feeling.” Kirsty never finds two days are the same.

As well as providing accounting services that range from self-assessment tax planning and VAT to audit and accounts, she’s part of THP’s sales team and closely involved in helping our trainees to develop their skills.

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