Networking 101: Conversational tips to stand out and be remembered

At a typical networking event people usually ask for your name, where you’re from and what you do - something you have a rough 30 seconds to answer

David Rigby
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You have found yourself at a networking event but you stand in the corner, alone and sipping on your soda. If this situation sounds familiar, you may be in need of some quick conversational tips to stand out from the crowd and be remembered.

At a typical networking event people usually ask for your name, where you’re from and what you do - something you have a rough 30 seconds to answer. If you fail, you are dismissed and the inquisitor is onto the next.


So what makes an answer compelling? Answers such as “I am a doctor, I’m just a housewife, I am in PR” are guaranteed to deter all but the most persistent. However, the statements below invite questions.

So, what do you say to open up the conversation?

“I make people feel better”: This might mean you are a doctor or a nurse or a nutritionist. Or even a teacher or therapist.

“I give people the opportunity to grow”: You could be a teacher in a school, or university, or a Pilates instructor, or personal trainer, or even TV presenter.

“I make my family more successful”: You could be a homemaker. You could run or be a key player in a family business. You might be working to support the family back home.

“I make the best fish and chips in the world”: probably a chef. But not any old chef but the best one

“I organize papers/accounts/products so the enterprise functions well”: Can be an accountant, can be making order fulfilment easy

“I deliver on sales promises”: An ethical sales person -using relationship building skills and people to deliver

“I lead an organization which makes/sells widgets to keep the trains running”: Managing a team managing a big company . Focusing on delivery and achievements

“I enable the government to utilize land well”: A government employee with a specific mission

“I build oil rigs by ensuring the components fit together”: More than just oil rigs but with a role worthy of further investigation.

By replying in such a way you open up a conversation and enabling questions whereas “I am a mechanical engineer, sales assistant, chief executive” doesn’t. You can also demonstrate how what you do contributes to your organization and society.

Every time you meet someone new, practice a new elevator speech. And keep trying different versions, until you finally come to one which you really like.
You will begin to know:

- Whether you are more logical than emotional,

- You like to be in the smallest area but have full control over it.

- Whether you like to finish what you started. (many people or good a kicking things off but not so good at completing them - and just moving on to the next)

- Whether you are concerned to ensure the people are alright - or just interested in delivery. In particular your delivery - doesn’t matter about anyone else’s.

- Whether you take all the credit whether or not you did all the work or it was your idea

- Whether you are more manager than leader - getting your team to ensure specific things are done to a certain standard within a certain timescale, rather than visualizing the future.

- Whether you are more of a worker than a manager – you’d rather deal with things than people.

- Whether you are a motivator. Do you ‘encourage’ other people to do things or just shout at them.

- All these characteristics are about who you are or maybe aspire to be. Certainly they will enable you to consider your characteristics against your perceived characteristics, against the kind of role you might be considering. Just because you have always worked in a particular field doesn’t mean you always should.

From a career perspective behaviours are more difficult to acquire than knowledge. As a brain surgeon an understanding of the brain can be helpful. I recently met a guy who had been channelled into mechanical engineering for a degree, but had the courage to start again and follow his dream to become a brain surgeon. Whether or not he makes it, he will at least know he tried and escaped his perceived engineering option.

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