Have you ever watched an experienced networker in action? They circle the room, warming up and making friends with everyone they meet. Not only do they put on a happy face and show true interest in what the other person is saying, they seem to be able to carry on a conversation about a wide range of topics.
When you’re knowledgable and well-read, conversation comes naturally. You don’t have to stretch for the next topic or the next thing to say. When you become a seasoned conversationalist, your clients, colleagues and acquaintances find you easy to be around.
So how do they do it? After all, networkers aren’t born; they’re made. It’s a skill that’s teachable and easy to learn with just a little bit of work each week. It starts with the ability to have intelligent and interesting things to say. And you can do that in a number of ways.
1. Subscribe to a daily newspaper
Subscribing to a daily newspaper doesn’t mean doorstep delivery any more. If your office subscribes to The New York Times or the Wall Street Journal, start there. Or sign up for a digital edition, most offer them at reduced rates. If you travel, pick up a local paper and learn what’s happening in different locations. Or use RSS feeds to follow the news from different parts of the world.
2. Read a good book
Several hundred thousand books are published each year here in the United States, and that doesn’t take into account all the books that are self-published. While it would be impossible to read each and every one of them, you can find the best of the best by looking at the top seller lists each week. The New York Times, Amazon, even magazines like Inc and Entrepreneur put out best seller lists to help you select the most interesting books on the market.
It’s hard to fit in everything you would like to do in a 24 hour time period. If you don’t have time to read, chose an audiobook instead. You can download it to your phone or tablet and take it with you everywhere you go.Whether on your commute to work, or your 30 minute workout after work, listening to something new can give you more than enough tidbits to share over dinner later that night.
4. Podcasts are the new books
If you haven’t had a chance to listen to a podcast, you’re missing the newest wave of technology. Though podcasts have been around for years, they are once again picking up steam – which means you’ll find a podcast about anything of interest to you. Head over to iTunes and browse through the hundreds of possibilities. Or check out one of the many apps that cater to podcasts – how about Stitcher?
5. Sign up for a class
There is a world of opportunity right outside your door. Classes don’t need to be expensive or even a great distance from your home in order to open up your eyes to new opportunities. Check out your local parks and recreation center in your community. A community college offers a wide variety of classes, and often have adult learning opportunities that can teach you something new in one evening. Don’t have time to attend a class? Stream it instead. You can find many opportunities online to watch via telephone, webinar or even through video. You can even learn new ideas quickly by following and watching TED videos every week.
6. Find new local events
As a networker, its easy to get into a rut, going to the same events over and over again. When you see the same people, its hard to find new things to talk about. Switch it up and find new groups in your area. Use sites like Meetup to find events happening all around you. Don’t limit it to business or groups a mile or two from your home. Do a few searches based on your other interests too. Business comes from being out there and connecting with new people. Who says you can’t do that on a hike, or sharing a glass of wine at a tasting?
7. Visit museums and cultural centers
Have you taken advantage of all the resources in your community? You’ll find many historical and cultural exhibitions in your area with just a simple search. You can join the museum and be the first to every exhibit that comes to town. Or take a tour to learn more about the native culture; you can find tour guides in a variety of places, even your local greenhouse may offer talks on native plants.
8. Stretch outside your comfort zone
It’s easy to fall into a rut, doing the same old things over and over again. Yet the more you venture out to learn new things, the more you’ll be able to share what you learn about. If a colleague mentions a class that sounds interesting, consider signing up too. If an acquaintance talks about a new hobby that sounds interesting, investigate how you could give it a try. Be curious. Ask questions. These are often skills we had as children, yet have lost as adults. The more inquisitive you are, the more you’ll grow. And the more you’ll discover about the world … and yourself.