How to Lay the Groundwork for Future Discussions

We all get the value of social prospecting.  By attending events and not being a jerk you can meet people who can advance your career, become great clients, great friends or your next spouse.  Lots of people get stuck on the being a jerk part.  Social prospecting is similar to dating.  Desperate people don’t get dates.  How do you make a connection before they disappear?

This isn’t your first rodeo.  You know how to start conversations you know how to keep the conversation going and identify interests in common.  You know less is more and when it’s time to break away.  So how do you make the connection?

It’s actually very simple.  At parties and events two major bottlenecks are the coat check line and the valet parking station.  (Skip the bathroom line because no one wants to talk when they’ve really gotta go.)

You see the person you would like to see again as they wait for their Maybach to pull up.  You ignore the attendant calling “Who has the black Honda Civic?”

One approach is to Establish Your Value.  You’ve learned they entertain a lot.  They don’t know much about wine, you do.  They are traveling to St. Maarten for the first time.  You just returned.  Remind them you talked about this topic.  You have some ideas you would be glad to pass along. 

Another approach is mentioning Shared Interests.  Enthusiasts with a hobby or special interest like to talk about it with fellow fans.  When they aren’t at shows, exotic car club owners gather in parking lots to talk about cars.  In this example you approach the person you met, explain you had a good time and mention your shared interests as the rationale for keeping in touch.

These two approaches lead to Asking for Contact Information.  “Here’s my business card” shatters the mood.  Try:  “I would like to keep in touch.  How do I do that?”  Stop talking.  They might pull out a card or write their email address on a cocktail napkin.  They might suggest social media.  At this point I pull out my own card, write “Bryce and Jane” on the back along with our phone number.  I present the card handwritten side forward.  This identifies it as a personal connection, yet they have my business details on the other side.

But that’s not you.  You like them but don’t want to adopt them.  A simple Looking Forward to Seeing You at the Next Event positions you as a regular attendee at the function.  This might be a museum exhibition opening, art gallery reception or professional society meeting.

You like these folks but don’t want the evening to end.  Here’s another approach:  We’re Heading Out to Dinner.  Want to Join Us?  You might attend after work events where the food on offer is pretty sparse or the crowd around the buffet is thick with freeloaders.   It’s likely they haven’t eaten either.  You haven’t entered into a contractual obligation to buy them dinner.  New friends thrown together by circumstances know they are picking up their own tab.

Sometimes you don’t need to solicit contact information.  If you are at an alumni club function, it’s likely the group maintains an online directory of members with contact details.  You might say:  I Had a Good Time…I May Be Giving You a Call.  It’s understood everyone’s contact information is available.  Make sure you do call.  Although you aren’t looking to date them, you want to demonstrate you are true to your word.

Social prospecting is an art.  Too often we let great opportunities slip away because we hesitated to make the next move.

Image: iStock/Rawpixel Ltd

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