This might also be called how to schmooze without schmoozing. Schmooze is a slang term meaning, “To converse casually, especially in order to gain an advantage or make a social connection.” Shmoozing has a slight negative connotation insomuch as the effort is to “gain an advantage”, but that’s exactly what most people are doing (or trying to do) at business conferences, trade shows, golf courses, and dinner parties. It is part of marketing, but it need not be duplicitous or a negative, at all. Stick to who you are and what you do, but choosing your words carefully – and well in advance.
Business Environment. Conventions can be rushed, crowded, loud places. A dinner party is likely to be a cozier, quieter affair. Adjust what you say to fit the occasion. Your goal, however, is to spend less time talking about what you do as getting others to talk about what they do. That’s the best way of discovering possible overlapping business interests.
Research. If you know who is going to be at a business event and you are likely to have face to face time with them, spend 10-15 minutes catching up on the latest news relevant to them or their company. Try to have some meaningful questions prepared in advance.
Thirty Seconds or Less. You can find a lot around the web on the Elevator Pitch. Simply, it is meant to be a fast, memorable introduction to others who you meet – wherever you meet them. This could be a business convention, trade show, dinner party, or just about anyone with whom you strike up a conversation. Normally, it is about 30 seconds, but even that can be too long.
The ONE THING. You likely have the best idea of what your business needs most, now. That’s your ONE THING. If possible and appropriate, fitting this ONE THING into your Elevator Pitch gives your introduction an “actionable” component, above and beyond whatever other interest might exist. You may have a list of several things, suffice that you should fit the “ONE THING” to the person in front of you. An executive might be able to get you a discount on advertising; a recruiter might be able to refer a qualified programmer; etc.
Business Cards. Always have several of your own cards available to distribute; always try to get business cards from those you meet. Follow up with, “It was a pleasure to meet you at…” style letter, 2-3 days following the event. If you saw any overlapping business interests, bring them up as topics for further discussion.
Social Environments – All of the above, but spending 10 seconds or less introducing yourself or your ONE THING. Customize your one thing to your audience here, too. If you are running a crowdfunding project, you could focus on that.
People do like being in a position to help others, but they don’t like wasting their time or risking their reputation or credibility. A veteran investor or businessman can readily tell within 1-2 minutes if someone is serious and/or realistic about a project or not.
The world is not static. It moves, people move, talk, interact, reach agreements, do business. The goal within all of this is to create opportunities and possibilities for things to move in your direction. Standing in the corner minding your own business has a high likelihood of leaving you standing there all alone. The more you mingle, the more people will be interested in mingling with you.
Don’t expect to impress or make a hit with everyone, nor do you need to. Expect to make some mistakes, but move past them. The worst anyone can do is say no.