Have you ever been invited to a business networking meeting or luncheon, or thought about going to your chamber of commerce’s networking events, but decided not to because you never know what to say to get the conversation started?
I’ve been there and here’s the simple trick I learned to help me feel comfortable with the cocktail party small talk. Most people who know me wouldn’t think of me as “shy” and I’m not most of the time. When it comes to “networking” though, I used to struggle with making small talk.
That is, until I learned the F.O.R.M. trick.
F.O.R.M. is great because it works as a memory tool for when you are in social situations and you want to get to know the person you are talking with, and you want that person to remember you and your business. Instead of talking about the weather(!), use F.O.R.M to make your conversation count.
F.O.R.M. stands for Family, Occupation, Recreation and Message. Four areas you can use as conversation helpers in just about any social situation!
Ask whether they live around the area, if they are originally from the area or have moved there recently, or if they have a family. All of these are great conversation starters. This gets the person talking about themselves and gives you a chance to learn about them.
What do you do for a living? When they tell you what they do, you have a great opportunity to ask them about their job if it’s in an industry you are familiar with. You can comment about how competitive it is, or how challenging. If you are unfamiliar with their industry, here’s your chance to learn about it!
When they ask what you do, have your ’30 second elevator speech” ready. This is a description of your business that you can say in just a couple of sentences that articulates what it is that you do.
For instance, for my business I would say that “I help small to medium sized business owners and entrepreneurs get more traffic, leads and sales and help them to build a better business.”
If you’ve already started to create that relationship and connection with them first (by asking about them, and listening to what they have to say genuinely, they will then be interested in you and ask you more questions!
This one is easy! What do you do for fun? If they participate in a sport or hobby that you enjoy as well, you can swap stories and really build a memorable relationship with the person.
For instance, if I meet someone and they tell me that they love to travel then I can talk about the places I’d love to visit, where they have been & where they recommend (this turns the conversation back to them showing your interest and respecting their knowledge and advice).
When you feel the conversation winding down, or you want to move on to meet other people in the group, have your “message” that you want this person to remember about you ready to go.
It’s something like your elevator speech, but much more personal to the individual you are talking to.
For me, my message is simple. “It was great to meet you, Bob! I’ll definite be in touch! If you ever need help marketing your business online or you run into someone who does you know who to call.”
If your business is selling plumbing supplies, just change it up a bit: “It was great to meet you, Bob. If you ever need a new faucet, I’m your guy!”
Of course, it’s implied that when they give you their card, you will refer business to them as well and you definitely should. Rising tides raise all ships, and the more referrals you can send to others, the more they are likely to send to you as well.
I always say I’ll be in touch, because I will. Even if I can’t personally use their services, I may know someone in the future who can. More importantly than that though, I’ll email them when I get home to reinforce the connection between us.
You can skip some of the first 3 steps, or cover them in a different order but your message is key.
First and foremost, you want to build a relationship with the person you are talking with, and you start to do that with the first 3 questions. Your message that you give them as you get ready to leave helps them remember who you are and what you do which is an incredibly powerful way to use networking to grow your referrals and your customer base.
Give F.O.R.M. a try the next time you are stuck for a conversation starter, and watch your network and your customer base grow as a result!
What are your best networking tips? Is there anything you struggle with?