Beyond The Weather Small Talk Tips For Networking Your Small Business

Beyond The Weather Small Talk Tips For Networking Your Small Business

Have you ever been invited to​ a​ business networking meeting or​ luncheon, or​ thought about going to​ your chamber of​ commerce's networking events, but decided not to​ because you never know what to​ say to​ get the​ conversation started?

I've been there – and​ here's the​ simple trick I learned to​ help me feel comfortable with the​ cocktail party small talk. Most people who know me wouldn't think of​ me as​ "shy" – and​ I'm not – most of​ the​ time. When it​ comes to​ "networking" though, I used to​ struggle with making small talk.

That is, until I learned the​ F.O.R.M. trick.

F.O.R.M. works great because it​ works as​ a​ memory tool for​ when you are in​ social situations and​ you want to​ get to​ know the​ person you are talking with, and​ you want that person to​ remember you – and​ your business. Instead of​ talking about the​ weather, use FORM to​ make your conversation count.

F.O.R.M. stands for​ Family, Occupation, Recreation and​ Message – four areas you can use as​ conversation helpers in​ just about any social situation.

Family – asking whether they live around the​ area, if​ they are originally from the​ area or​ have moved there recently, if​ they have a​ family – all of​ these are great conversation starters. This gets the​ person talking about themselves and​ gives you a​ chance to​ learn about them.

Occupation – what do you do for​ a​ living? When they tell you what they do, you have a​ great opportunity to​ ask them about their job – if​ it's in​ an​ industry you are familiar with you can comment about how competitive it​ is, or​ how challenging. if​ you are unfamiliar with their industry, here's your chance to​ learn about it.

When they ask what you do, have your '30 second elevator speech" ready. This is​ a​ description of​ your business that you can say in​ just a​ couple of​ sentences that articulates what it​ is​ that you do.

For instance, for​ my business I would say that "I help small to​ medium sized business owners market their brick-and-mortar businesses on the​ Internet, finding new local customers, increasing their sales and​ growing their businesses."

Recreation – this one's easy! What do you do for​ fun? if​ they participate in​ a​ sport or​ hobby that you enjoy as​ well, you can swap stories and​ really build a​ memorable relationship with the​ person.

For instance, if​ I meet someone and​ they tell me that they love to​ travel – then I can talk to​ them for​ hours, learning about the​ places they've visited. I can also share with them my passion for​ photography and​ how my camera has gotten me into some interesting adventures while we've been on the​ road.

Message – when you feel the​ conversation winding down, or​ you want to​ move on to​ meet other people in​ the​ group, have your "message" that you want this person to​ remember about you ready to​ go. It's something like your elevator speech, but much more personal to​ the​ individual you are talking to.

For me, my message is​ simple. "It was great to​ meet you, Bob. if​ you ever need help marketing your business online – or​ you run into someone who does – you know who to​ call."

If your business is​ selling plumbing supplies, just change it​ up a​ bit: "It was great to​ meet you, Bob. if​ you ever need a​ new faucet, I'm your guy!"

Of course, it's implied that when they give you their card, you will refer business to​ them as​ well – and​ you definitely should. Rising tides raise all ships, and​ the​ more referrals you can send to​ others, the​ more they are likely to​ send to​ you as​ well.

You can skip some of​ the​ first 3 steps, or​ cover them in​ a​ different order – but your message is​ key. First and​ foremost, you want to​ build a​ relationship with the​ person you are talking with, and​ you start to​ do that with the​ first 3 questions. Your message that you give them as​ you get ready to​ leave helps them remember who you are and​ what you do – which is​ an​ incredibly powerful way to​ use networking to​ grow your referrals and​ your customer base.

Give F.O.R.M. a​ try the​ next time you are stuck for​ a​ conversation starter, and​ watch your network – and​ your customer base – grow as​ a​ result.

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