Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Building Rapport When Networking

Rapport refers to a relationship—whether personal or professional—based on a mutual liking, trusting, and understanding of each other. When networking, your overall goal should be to build rapport with others. People will sense whether you have a genuine desire to get to know them versus strictly being task focused, such as obtaining a business referral. Networking should be a two-way conversation that is pleasant and beneficial for both parties.

Basic Introduction Tips

When networking, present yourself professionally. Make eye contact, smile, and introduce yourself with a firm handshake. Pay attention, and attempt to mirror the other person’s tone of voice and speech. These tips may seem basic, but they’re often overlooked. Remember, a negative first impression may abruptly cut your conversation short.

Find Common Ground

When meeting for the first time, try to identify common ground or interests. If you’re meeting a new contact at an event, inquire about how the other person heard of the event and ask if he/she is familiar with the speaker(s). If you are from the same profession, industry, or location, bring up something newsworthy to facilitate discussion—preferably something positive and commonly known.

Ask Open-ended Questions and Listen

The best way to spark conversation beyond a one- or two-word response is to ask open-ended questions. If the first question fizzles, follow up with a second and a third. Actively listen to the other person’s responses. This should lead to relevant follow-up questions and a full-blown conversation.

Extend Your Appreciation

As the conversation closes, thank your new contact for his/her time and ask for a business card. If appropriate, suggest keeping in contact through a professional channel, like LinkedIn. By staying connected, you can continue to foster a relationship based on good rapport.

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