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Five Ways to Network a Barbecue and Not Get Burned

By | May.25.17 | Business Development, Daily Dispatch, Networking, Well Said!

Well Said Network

As the school year ends and summer approaches, social schedules ramp up with graduation parties, barbecues, golf outings, baseball games and the like. At least some of these will be hosted by your firm, clients and other business contacts. It’s an opportunity to meet and reconnect with lots of people.

However, it also entails an obligation to do so. You can’t just stand around by yourself or with a few people you already know. Apart from the obvious waste of an opportunity to network, that can put a burden on your host who, noticing your isolation, may worry that you’re not having a good time, or feel like he or she should spend time with you, or introduce you around. So, do your part to help make the event successful.

Remember These Tips When Meeting People for the First Time

Even if you’re shy, you can contribute to social occasions, and even enjoy it. Here are five things to remember when meeting people for the first time.

1. Be first to extend your hand and say “Hello,” and offer your name. It sends an immediate message that you’re friendly, and cues the other person to complete the introduction. If you’re not good at remembering names (one of my weaknesses), make sure to say the person’s name aloud. (“Nice to meet you, Denise.”) Verbal reinforcement is a memory aid. If you’re really bad at it (like me), you can create your mnemonic right there, aloud, and acknowledge what you’re doing. “I’m really bad at names, so bear with me. ‘Denise with the cool red sandals. Denise with the cool red sandals.’” Just make a joke out of your need to repeat in order to remember. Most people will be flattered that you’re making a real effort to remember their name. I’ll bet you that, when you bump into Denise later at the event, she’ll help you out, offering “Denise with the cool red sandals.”

2. Show you’re a good listener by restating others’ comments in different words. Too many people are busy thinking about what they’re going to say next when they should be listening to what the other person is saying. Use phrases like, “So, if I understand correctly … ” to avoid loss of focus. Remember that you have no way of knowing which conversation will provide you with a nugget of an idea, or a spark of inspiration, or the beginning of a solution to something that’s eluded you. View each conversation as an opportunity.

3. Let others play the expert. People will be more impressed than if you try to play the expert. Ask “how” questions to draw out others’ expertise — for example, how did they first become interested in whatever topic they’re talking about with you? Find something to be curious about.

4. Find something in common. To build rapport, seek common goals, interests and experiences with those you meet. “Nice Cavaliers championship shirt. Are you from Northeastern Ohio?”

5. Balance giving and receiving information. People dislike talking to someone when they can’t get a word in edgewise. On the other hand, they also dislike having to do all the talking. Find a good balance. One way to do this is by adding a question to the end of your remark. That signals you’re finished speaking and makes it easy for the other person to keep things going.

Saves for When It Gets Awkward

Sometimes, we find ourselves in a small conversation group where suddenly nobody is carrying the conversation — as if we collectively ran out of conversational gas. It can be very awkward. Here’s a reliable solution: Ask people to describe the most unusual job they’ve ever had. Since this is a non sequitur, have one example to use to prime the pump and tee it up. Maybe make up a straw man: “I was talking to someone earlier who had a series of unusual jobs during college. For example, (insert a short example you’re prepared with).” Then immediately ask the group to share their oddest job, or the most eccentric boss they’ve had. Everyone likes oddities.

A few years ago I spoke at a law firm retreat, where the firm’s tradition was to have all those who joined the firm since the previous retreat introduce themselves and describe their most unusual undergrad course. It was a lot of fun and broke the ice for everyone.

Mike O’Horo is a serial innovator in lawyer training. For 25 years, Mike has been known by lawyers as "The Coach." He trained more than 7,000 of them, simplifying powerful sales processes by which they generated $1.5 billion in new business. His Dezurve program reduces firms’ business development training investment risks by identifying which lawyers are serious about learning BD. Earlier he developed RainmakerVT, an interactive virtual BD training tool, and ResultsPath, an integrated sales training program. Follow Mike on Twitter @salescoach.

Related: How to Work the Room at Networking Events by Sally J. Schmidt

Illustration ©iStockPhoto.com

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