The Three Phases of Conversation When Networking

Networking at a Conference

Communication is the fuel that drives business of every type.  Connections are made, trust is built, and deals are sealed.  And many times, these connections are initially made at a networking event.

Let’s face it – networking for many people is equivalent to drudgery.  But there are ways to make it a fun challenge.  When you approach the task as an optimist, you know that putting yourself through the beginning stages of getting to know someone may lead to a new friend or a new business relationship.

Looking closely, every conversation has three phases.   Like a story, it has a beginning, middle, and end. 

Phase One: Starting a Conversation

You’ve prepared for the event by researching some of the people and companies attending.  You might even have a list of people you want to meet.  And you know who you are, specific to the event.    

  • “I’m John Jones and am the Business Development Director for Company X.”
  • “My name is Quincy Adams, and I’m a senior in Program Z and the School of Business, here at Y University.”

Once you’ve made your introduction, the ice is broken and it may be up to you to keep the momentum going.

  • Look for things in common through small talk.  This is when you employ the list of questions you made for asking people about themselves. 
    “How did you first meet our host?” 
    “How did you learn about this event?” 
    “What brings you to this part of the country?”  
  • Remain familiar with the person’s name by repeating it during your conversation.  
  • Remember, the other person is looking for commonality just as you are.  You’re both in the situation together, so no need to become tongue-tied.                                                     

Phase Two: Continuing the Conversation

Once you’ve found your commonality, explore the surfaces of it.  Show your interest by listening with your whole being.  When someone senses he has your full attention, that person feels welcomed.  

You may notice the questions keep firing between you.  You are both exploring curiosities and getting a sense of whether this is someone you like.  

However, if you sense it's time to move on,  the third phase of your conversation may come sooner rather than later.  It’s okay when this happens.  You gave it a fair shot and now you can move on to someone else you will enjoy meeting.                                                                        

Phase Three:  Ending the Conversation

It may be that you decide together to move on and greet others, but however it is that you depart, include the person’s name in the goodbye.  

Even if you don’t intend to do business or may not see the person for a while, asking for the person's contact information may come in handy in the future.  If you ask for a business card,  follow up by email within a day or two to let the person know that it was a pleasure meeting her. 

The Advantage of Networking

You’ve made a great first impression by guiding the person you just met through the three phases of conversation.  Once you follow up, the cycle will be complete.  

You and the other person have created a little story.  You met and engaged sincerely, you found a commonality, and then you exited the occasion and left room for another time to meet.  

This may sound formulaic, but once you’ve got the routine down, you’ll be able to mindfully realize where you are in a conversation.  Have you listened, found and shared a commonality yet?  Have you told the other person what a pleasure it has been and left room for a next time?

Conversation fosters connection.  Networking occasions opportunities for people to meet and become familiar with one another.  Getting to know others is the first step in forming business or social relationships.

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