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.

Each conversation you join is a learning or story-telling opportunity.  Like any story, these encounters will have a beginning, a middle, and an ending.  Although, also like most stories, once your conversation ends, there is an opening for even bigger stories to come about.

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 have a one-sentence summary to share about yourself when you meet someone at this 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 at least three times during your conversation.  Kindly clarify the pronunciation if you need to.
  • 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.  Relax and enjoy the adventure of meeting someone new!

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, you make him feel safe and welcome talking with you.  

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 notice you may not have much in common, or if you’re getting the cold shoulder, 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 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, say the person’s name again and be sure you’ve asked for contact information so you can follow-up.  

Even if you don’t intend to do business or may not see the person for a while, when you have a business card, you can follow up again and let the person know that it was a pleasure meeting her. 

Being ready to follow up is the final step in ending the conversation!

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.  There was a beginning, middle and end—of this one occasion.  

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.  Are you in the part where the other person’s name really matters?  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.  You are bound to find people to know, appreciate and trust.  And others will take pleasure in getting to know, appreciate and trust you!  

But first you need to get out of your comfort zone and get to know new people.  Are you up for this challenge?

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