I have seen some pretty heavy-handed attempts at networking. I think we’ve all experienced it, from telemarketers to Chamber functions and “that guy” that just won’t back down.

Over at The Society for Word of Mouth, Ulla Jones offered up a simple, yet profound slogan to remember when you’ve found yourself in these networking opportunities, “Share don’t Scare.”

If you click on this link, you can read some of the comments/conversation that followed.

From my experience, it’s not so much about spewing your mission statement out there and then force-feeding it to everyone in the room – or even one person. It’s more about building a relationship and a TWO-WAY conversation about commonalities you may (or may not) have with the other person. Make an introduction that causes the other person to ask more and leave it there. (Engage them…)

Here’s a sample of how I open a conversation:

“Hi. I’m Andrew Clark. I work with a marketing communications company where I get to cook up TRUE brands as The Brand Chef…”

Ultimately, this leads them to ask more (e.g – “What the heck is a Brand Chef?” or “TRUE Branding, what’s that?”).

I can then comfortably work in to how TRUE branding is an acronym for True, Relevant, Unique and Engaging… Or I could tell a story about how our marketing and communications company is a lot like a professional kitchen – a place where delicious brands are cooked up for patrons using unique ingredients to spice up their brand.

Once the dialogue is started, then it’s your duty to engage, not preach. Find out what they do and where their interests/pain points may lie. And for God’s sake, let them talk. And don’t forget to listen.

That’s just my approach. Sometimes I get some sideways looks, but most of the time it creates an interesting conversation. And isn’t that all we’re really after?

Keep Cooking!