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Expert Answers to Biz Questions

Listen in! Pick up some expert advice to a reader's question that we selected from CyberSchmooz.

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The Biz Question

Hi All,

I'm planning on embarking out on my own in May and have started my planning process. One item that's high on my list is to SCHMOOZE (aka network) at several upcoming meetings of professional organizations in (what will be) my field (independent writing and communication strategy consultation). Trouble is, despite the fact that I'm primarily an extrovert, I've never been good at or enjoyed small talk and chit chat. I much prefer one-on-one deeper conversations and so am challenged when it comes to just jumping into what seems to often be surface conversation with people I meet at these functions.

Does anyone have any "Schmoozing 101" advice they could offer? My real aim over the next several months is to begin planting seeds with folks who could either be or lead me to prospective clients, so anything that will help me dive into conversations along that vein (without being obnoxious or overbearing) would be greatly appreciated. I'll have to have at least one or two contracts lined up before I leave my job so I don't starve or get the credit police after me!

Thanks for any advice you can offer.

Laura

Answer from our Guest Expert Liz Folger of Bizy Moms

Hello Laura,

I'll be honest with you, schmoozing isn't easy for me either. I consider myself a very shy person, and the thought of having to talk to people about myself . . . well, let's just say I'd rather visit the dentist!

On the bright side, however, I've found the best solution to my problem and yours. I guarantee your next schmoozing experience will begin and end a success if you follow some of these schmoozing 101 tips.

Schmoozing Tip #1

When you first go up and meet a person, Never Ever start talking about yourself. People will pay attention for a few seconds and then start looking for any excuse to leave. You don't need that. If that happens more than once, you'll feel like exiting the building yourself. We all know that isn't going to help the future growth of your business.

Here's my secret to schmoozing and getting and keeping people's attention . . . Are you listening?

Schmoozing Tip #2

During the first part of the conversation, only talk about the other person. Ask them what they do, how their business is doing, what do they do to find customers. Ask the kind of questions you are uncertain about with your business. This is a smart schmooze move for a couple of reasons.

First, by asking someone else for their know-how and experience, you never know when you might receive a "pearl" of wonderful advice in return. So listen carefully to what your new-found friend is saying. Don't just pretend you're listening. Look into their eyes, not around the room while they talk.

The other reason to use this schmoozing strategy? Hey, it's flattering when others want to hear about your ideas and business. Many people do enjoy talking about themselves, and encouraging them with questions and interested ears will keep them talking with you. Not many people walk away from a conversation where they are playing the leading role!

Once you've showed this interest in your new acquaintance, soon enough, you'll most likely be asked about your business and what you do. Bingo!

Schmoozing Tip #3

Now, don't freeze at this point. Practice what you 're going to say. Rehearse in front of your spouse, friend, or Mirror. Make it interesting. Give the person a good reason to listen. Be funny, interesting, entertaining -- do whatever you feel is appropriate to keep the person's attention. Make your answers short and sweet. End with a quick exchange of business cards -- you never know when you might need that person's service or you may know someone you can refer to them and vice versa.

So, Schmoozing 101's bottom line: Spend a little time with each new prospect. Listen. Learn. Then end with your short spiel. Soon, you'll have a whole room who can't wait to talk to you, and you won't mind!

Schmooze Away!

Liz Folger

Work-at-Home Mom Expert & Author of The Stay-at-Home Mom's Guide To Making Money

P.S. Idea Cafe features a book called, Meeting and Mingling even if You're Shy, by Susan RoAne, that may interest you. Just go to the Book Store to find out more!

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