If youâ€™re going to networking events to grow your business, chances are that youâ€™re not nearly as effective building relationships as you could be.Â
Thatâ€™s because most of us spend too much time at networking events chatting with friends.Â That is the conclusion of a study conducted byÂ Professors Paul Ingram and Michael Morris of Columbia Business School.
For the study, the professors staged a networking event at the business school, inviting about 100 business people. To get a precise record of who met whom during the course of the night, attendees wore a small electronic device called an nTag to track all encounters.
While most attendees knew fewer than a third of the other participants, most didnâ€™t take full advantage of the chance to meet new people. The nTags showed that the average guest had 14 encounters during the night and that friends accounted for a disproportionate half of these encounters.
Most people fail to maximize the value of networking events because they arenâ€™t comfortable chatting with strangers.
Of course, the key to chatting with strangers is simply to ask questions and listen.Â The best networkers have a series of ice breaker questions.
â€œWhere are you from?â€
â€œDo you have any plans for the holidays?â€
â€œDo you have any hobbies?â€
The goal is to find a point of commonality.Â Usually it only takes a few questions to find that youâ€™re both into motorcycles or cooking or golf. From there, the conversation usually takes off.
Next time youâ€™re at a networking event, make it a goal to spend more time chatting with strangers than friends. After all, connecting with new people is the reason the events exist