Since business networking is so important to our businesses it seems there would be a course on effective networking. There must be training on what to do or how to connect, right? Unfortunately there is very little available. Here are practical tools and a process you can use to grow your network. I call this process “Motivational Listening”.

The old rule of, “It’s not what you know but who you know” has been updated; now “it’s who knows you.”

We know business networking is important. You have opportunities to connect at formal networking events, informal gatherings, or trade shows. Whatever the venue, you have the ability to meet advocates for your business.

“Advocates” not sales opportunity

Your goal at networking events should be to find those who can support, nurture, or introduce you. It is not your goal to close the deal.

The purpose of Motivational Listening is for the speaker to exit the conversation feeling better about themselves than when they entered. We employ tools from Active Listening and research from brain science to quickly connect with a potential advocate.

Active listening tools include:

  • Being present in the conversation (paying attention);
  • Good body language (eye contact, posture, etc.);
  • Being a part of the conversation (verbal clues you are paying attention);
  • And remember, this is not a debate. The conversation is not your opportunity to prove a point.

These are essential tools in connecting at a business networking event, however they are not directed at building a relationship, we need a specific process to follow.


A Listening Process That Connects

Motivational Listening provides a defined process to connect with potential advocates that does not require you to be an extrovert nor is it limited by being an introvert. There are six steps to use Motivational Listening at networking events:

  1. Activate cognitive functions
  2. Take a conversational journey
  3. Summarize and let the speaker know they are remarkable
  4. Utilize your emotional intelligence
  5. Differentiate between result and motivation
  6. Close for contact details and permission for further contact

1. Cognitive Functions

Research tells us we daydream between 30%-50% of our waking hours. This is true when you are connecting at a networking event. Your potential advocate can be thinking about the food, where they parked, or any number of things when you approach them. There is a portion of the brain that activates when the unexpected happens. The Orbito-frontal cortex focuses attention and snaps a wandering mind away from daydreams. You activate this cognitive function with an unexpected question. I like to ask, “How’s your world?” It is non-threatening and not too strange.

2. Conversational Journey

Your goal is to get to know this person by asking questions, it is not your time to blurt your elevator speech or tagline. Get to know them – what they do, how they got interested in this career, and what has changed. This allows you to become interesting by being interested.

3. They are Remarkable

Once you have learned about the speaker’s career journey, compliment them on the effort it took and how they are solving problems for people. People often forget how much they know because the knowledge becomes “hard wired” into their brain through a process called Neuroplasticity. Use this opportunity to remind them that what they do is remarkable.

4. Emotional Intelligence

The ability to control your emotions and influence the emotions of others is Emotional Intelligence. It is important to control your emotions when attending networking events. Sometimes the conversations might include a topic where you have a strong emotion. Remember, this is not a debate. A networking event is to connect with advocates not to prove a point.

5. Differentiate Result and Motivation

The answers you receive from the speaker during the conversational journey will provide you Results. If you ask a person’s profession and they tell you they are an accountant (result) it might be because they value the beauty of order in numbers (motivation); an engineer (result) may be motivated by solving problems (motivation). If you can separate the speaker’s motivation from the result, you will demonstrate a deeper understanding of their business, and thereby a deeper connection.

6. Close for Contact Details and Permission to Follow-up

Once you have made a connection with a person at the networking event you can gracefully disengage by thanking them and asking for contact details. You do not want to dominate their time or limit your ability to meet other potential advocates. The follow-up meeting is the time to provide details about your business. The message you will share about your company at that meeting can be tailored to them based on what you have learned.

Be ready to become known at your next business networking event.

These are the basic steps in using Motivational Listening at business networking events. I have an online course available on Udemy (https://www.udemy.com/motivational-listening-for-networking-events/) .

Scott Smith is the Motivational Listener, focusing on business & social media strategy and execution. He lives in Corvallis and often uses the hashtag “TodaysOffice”. He and his wife, Christine, will be celebrating 34 years married in 2018 and have 3 children.