Ask the Experts

Ask the Experts: At business luncheons, focus on networking and meeting people

vbridges@newsobserver.comSeptember 16, 2013 

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How many times have you been to a business luncheon and been approached by someone trying to give you a business card?

Going to a luncheon with the goal of giving your business card to as many people as possible is not a viable marketing technique, said Sharon Hill, an author, certified etiquette trainer and president of Sharon Hill International, a motivational and educational speaking business in Chapel Hill. Instead, she said in her edited comments below, you should seek to meet business prospects, market your business and enjoy the luncheon.

Most business luncheons have networking time preceding the meal. During this time, work the room, strive to greet those you know and focus on meeting new people.

Be curious. Introduce yourself with a smile.

Ask the people you’ve just met open-ended questions about themselves or their company. Use dialogue such as, “Hello, my name is Mary Smith. I see from your name tag that you work for Acme International. How does it feel to work for a company that provides such innovative products?”

Do not talk about your company unless you are asked. The goal is to get people to talk about themselves. After five to seven minutes, shake hands with the person to end the conversation. Ask for their business card only if you are interested in future conversation.

If there is assigned seating, you might be sitting next to people you don’t know. This gives you the opportunity to continue networking during the luncheon. Be sure to speak to the people on both sides of you. Don’t just focus on one person.

If there is a struggle for conversation, start by asking people about themselves. Ideally, you should be talking 20 percent of the time and listening 80 percent of the time.

After the luncheon, reach out to your new contacts and offer to take them to lunch or coffee. Mention some of the personal points you remember from your previous conversation.

Bridges: 919-829-8917

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