August 21, 2011

Appreciation Marketing – Starting a Conversation at a Networking Event

Previously we discussed Bob Burg’s book, “Endless Referrals”.  I consider this to be a great book for anybody who wants to increase their sphere of clients, prospects, friends, and relationships.  From start to finish he covers all manner of networking.  Building relationships is the route to success, and Bob Burg details how to do it.

You should attend networking events, whether they are meetings specifically for networking or are general meetings for business people to attend (luncheons, seminars, whatever).  Every business meeting is a networking opportunity, and all attendees should understand that these are opportunities for networking and building relationships.

At a meeting specifically promoted as a networking meeting, starting conversations should be easy.  After all, everyone should expect that networking is one of the reasons that they are there.  Starting a conversation with people at different type of meetings might be more difficult, but you can do so at all meetings if you approach them in a non-threatening manner.  It is just that simple.

If you see friends at a meeting, say hello to them and ask how they are.  However, you are there to network with people that you do not know, strangers who are not already your networking partners.  You may be targeting someone who is in attendance, but the main objectives of your efforts should not be people that you already know.  Get out of your comfort zone, and look for people who are new to you.

Some of these people may not be veterans of networking as you are and might be nervous.  Greet and comfort them; make them feel welcome.  Ask their name and what they do.  Exchange business cards and comment on something after looking at their card.  Maybe they don’t know anyone else; after you get acquainted, you can introduce them to someone that you know.

If you learn that they are interested in meeting specific people, you might be able to introduce them to those attendees, or you might be able to refer them to some partners of yours later.  If you cannot refer them to specific people, perhaps you know someone who might be able to help them meet the people for whom they are searching.

Just be yourself, do not try to sell; just establish a beginning to a relationship.  You may be able to start the conversation from their name tag, or they may do so from yours.  Ask them where they are located, or their accent may lead to a discussion.  Maybe you know someone in a similar industry or in another group that they may mention.

No matter what you do, do not start selling your product or company, or even yourself.  Ask them if they would like to get together and get better acquainted at another time, promising to contact them later.  If they offer to set a meeting right away, do so, but don’t push for one; that is what follow up is for.  If you suggest a future meeting, your call will not be a cold call, but a genuine follow up call.

Appreciation Marketing techniques are very applicable in this start to relationships.  Cultivate relationships first, and your will cultivate business partners, clients, and referrals for more prospects.  Meet others, cultivate relationships, always appreciate others, and you will prosper, both in business and personally.

Please leave me your comments and ideas, or you can call me at 360-314-8691, or email me at  Share some of your experiences with me; we all learn from each other.


  1. One thing that I have done in the past is to go as a pair. Have one person introduce you to the people they know then you introduce that person to the people you know. This makes it easier to get the conversation going. I find it so much easier when there is someone that will go around introducing me to people - then of course returning the favor!

  2. Jim,

    Truly thoughtful material. Networking events, when handled right, are great places to start a new business relationship. With a little time and care, that relationship can grow and eventually turn into business, and more importantly, a referral source.

    Some of my friends and I like to say, "Building relationships makes both dollars and sense."

    Best Regards,