Chances are you’ve been invited to the conventional meet-ups, the groups, the conferences, that are organized with
networking in mind. Attending these events are like-minded professionals in similar industries usually for a presentation with cocktail hour. Some thrive in these types of settings, while others dread them. To make-up for this, it is beneficial to seek out alternative places to network.
Sometimes it’s the least expected encounter with the most unlikely person that leads to our next great professional opportunity. [Source]
Throughout our day we run into numerous points where we are around complete strangers; waiting for your bagel with cream cheese, in line at Starbucks, the passenger in the next seat over on the plane, train, or bus, waiting in line for the restaurant bathroom, at the gym, the grocery store, doctors office or volunteer work. These are prime opportunities to expand upon your professional network. “Every minute you’re around other human beings is a chance to network. Self-made billionaires are known for their tendency to network everywhere and all the time.” writes charisma coach Olivia Fox Cabane. Take out the earbuds and put your phone away. Why not take advantage of these hidden network opportunities and strike up a conversation with the person. Unconventional places to network can reveal some of the strongest, lasting connections.
“Charisma coach Cabane knows it’s not always easy to strike up conversations with strangers. In her article, “Plane Speaking,” she offers a useful step-by-step guide.
- Select your flight neighbor. If you have a choice in seating, Cabane recommends boarding the flight late and scanning the passengers. Choose to sit next to someone who’s dressed in a suit and reading a book, presumably a businessperson who’s not buried in his or laptop or hovering over a report.
- Greet your fellow passenger on first sight–otherwise it makes the conversation “awkward if you haven’t acknowledged each other’s presence from the outset.”
- Start a conversation by either commenting on the airline service or complimenting something she’s wearing, such as a piece of jewelry or a pin. “Ask the story behind it,” Cabane says. “The word ‘story’ is important to use because it has certain associations with the human psyche.”
- Ask questions, and mirror her actions and facial expressions.Cabane says even synchronizing your voice–copying the tone, volume and speed–will help you build rapport with your flight neighbor. According to Cabane, people like people who are like them, and behaving similarly is the best way to achieve this.
- Most importantly, Cabane writes in the “Art of Mastering Conversation,” make that person feel like the most interesting person you’ve ever met. Not only is this easy to do since it takes the focus off yourself, but also it prolongs the conversation so you can build a quick and easy rapport. “Keep the spotlight on them for as long as possible,” Cabane writes. “It’s the one subject most people find the most fascinating of all.” [Source]
The person may turn out to be in no relevant field to you, but you never know who they may know, or what tidbit of knowledge or lesson you may be able to take away from the encounter.
This weekend when you are out and about, try freshening up your small talk by talking to that person behind you in line at the hardware store, at the bank, or in the repair shop waiting room.