Dancing in the conversation

By Naomi Simson | Sep 28, 11 12:27 PM

Founder & CEO of leading online gift retailer RedBalloon, Naomi Simson gives us her insight into how to network and have real conversations.

I don’t really like the word ‘networking’ – it implies something forced or not easy (I think the term should remain the domain of IT folks). I was recently at the EO conference in Amsterdam and one of my friends asked me if I was going to ‘network’ there – which made me cringe. I know people have said of me that "You’re a great 'networker'!" I don’t necessarily think that I am… what I am, is fundamentally interested in people… and I really like meeting people (and catching up with people I have known forever.). One thing I do know is that in the early days of RedBalloon when no one had ever heard of it – it was really important for me to get out and about and meet people – to put a face to a website as it were.

When I ask people I meet what they do – I am curious; but ideally I would love them to capture my imagination so that I can A, remember it and B, introduce them to other people that might be interesting or relevant to them.

The more real the conversation you have with someone when you meet them at a business event the more likely they are to remember which business card is yours, from the many that they collected (though this is not a quantity game – having one real conversation is worth 50 superficial ones). But please no wearing the heart on the sleeve either – no one is really interested in your life story when you have just met.

One of the most useful things for me when meeting people is to simply ask lots of questions – but then again I am a very curious person so it comes naturally. And hint here – DO really listen to the answer and recall it.

Here are some questions that might take your conversations to a bit of a deeper level:

  • What makes the thing you do special?
  • What do you guarantee?
  • What do your customers say about you?
  • Do you have a purpose?
  • What is your BHAG? (you might have to explain this one)
  • By which values is your company driven?
  • Where did your values come from?
  • If you could swap places with another human being alive today who would it be?
  • What do you like most in other people?
  • Who do you respect the most?

Just thought I’d share – because in my opinion no one really wants to be ‘networked at.’ I personally don’t ever ‘script’ the sort of questions I will ask – my curiosity allows that to happen naturally – my intention here is to get you thinking beyond the obvious standard run of the mill questions that everyone asks. It is about dancing in the conversation– and PS these events are not a place to ‘sell’ to people – they are a place to create relationships – never talk at people… it is very ho hum.

'Networking' events are an opportunity to GIVE not to GET - be generous with your time, listen deeply and be truly interested and you never know you might end up meeting a friend for life.

Naomi Simson is the founder and CEO of leading online gift retailer, RedBalloon. Naomi is also a  mother, author, blogger and a truly passionate individual.

Naomi is a premium member of Business Chicks, connect with her here.

This article first appeared on Naomi's blog, here.


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Rebecca Bodman
By Rebecca Bodman NSW | Sep 28, 2011, 04:31 PM

Really great tips here! Perfect to try out at the next Business Chicks event!Reply

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